A foreign nurse working in the United States has settled with MedPro, a healthcare staffing agency that Eden Selispara says treated her like an ‘indentured servant.’
The 33-year old Philippines national had been working overseas in Abu Dhabi when she was picked up by MedPro. Each year, staffing agencies provide visas to thousands of foreign workers, many from the Philippines, India and other Asian countries. In exchange for a contract and wage garnishment, the workers can earn higher salaries than they’d be able to in the Middle-East or their home countries.
Selispara says she signed on with MedPro after being promised $26 per hour and the promise of a “travel adventure.” Her contract, according to the Sun-Sentinel, obligated her to work wherever MedPro sent her for up to three years. In addition to a time commitment, she’d pay the agency $33,320 in exchange for securing an American visa and transportation to the United States.
Two months after arriving in South Florida, Selispara began questioning her arrangement. She’d been placed in a three-bedroom apartment in Sunrise, FL, with eight other immigrant nurses. MedPro forbade her from applying to other positions and told her she wasn’t allowed to travel farther than Miami.
The $2,500 Selispara had been given to last three months was set aside for “relocation costs,” and she was instructed not to spend it until she’d been given an assignment.
During the two months Selispara stayed in Sunrise, she received no compensation. Forced to dig into her own savings while waiting for a job that never materialized, the woman grew desperate—she left sunrise in March 2017 and found another job in Houston.
“All she ever really wanted was to come to this country and make money,” said Adam Pulver, an attorney with nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen. Pulver helped defend Selispara against MedPro’s unsuccessful suit. “She loves working as a nurse.”
But Selispara’s desire to work upset MedPro, which immediately launched a lawsuit. Along with demanding $156,000 in damages, the company threatened to report the nurse to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for immigration fraud.
While MedPro’s called the woman’s situation “atypical,” Pulver claims the company’s threats of deportation were unfounded. As a nurse and skilled professional, Selispara’s employment is “portable,” meaning she can switch employers provided she stays within the same field.
MedPro settled their suit with Selispara this week. Along with dropping their $156,000 claim, the company’s agreed to revise its employment procedures. Foreign workers will no longer be subject to stringent travel restrictions while awaiting assignments, and compensation will be provided to immigrants awaiting relocation.
On top of that, MedPro agreed that it’ll cap claims for contract-breakers at $40,000, offering the option of repayment plans instead of the full and immediate reimbursement demanded of Selispara.
Despite Selispara’s accusations—which included human trafficking in a counter-suit—MedPro says it plies a harsh business in which staffing agencies bear financial risk while sponsoring migrant employees.
“This is a complex and costly business with uncertain financial return,” said MedPro corporate attorney Cristy Caserta. “For that reason, it is critical that MedPro can count on employees honoring the employment commitment that they make.”