News 5 Filipino nurses in the US challenge unfair contract vs. former employer

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Specifically, they are battling the Training Repayment Agreement Provisions, which is commonly used by employers to cover employee training costs

By: Hans Carbonilla

Asian Americans constitute 8.9 percent of registered nurses in the United States; most were also disproportionately affected during the pandemic, with one report indicating that 24.6 percent of nurses who succumbed to the disease were of Filipino descent.

Despite their significant numbers within the population, some Filipino nurses are impelled to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board due to alleged exploitative practices.

Five Filipino immigrant nurses have taken legal action against their former employer CommuniCare Family of Companies. The nurses are contesting the use of Training Repayment Agreement Provisions (TRAPs) embedded in their employment contracts, claiming that these provisions perpetuate exploitative working conditions.

According to a press release, the nurses are seeking justice and fair treatment in the face of what they describe as challenging and untenable employment circumstances.

As mentioned by Elizabeth Koo, senior counsel at Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, TRAPs are commonly used by employers to cover the cost of job-related training for employees.

"I came to the US to fulfill my American dreams, but my expectations are far from the reality that I experienced working with CommuniCare,” Jhane Engnan said about the working conditions at CommuniCare.

The contentious aspect of TRAPs arises when an employee decides to leave the company before a specified duration, as they then become liable to pay a fee to compensate for the training expenses incurred by the employer.

“I was put in extremely difficult working conditions dealing with 20 to 25 patients at the same time, and I constantly prayed that I would survive my shift without making any mistakes,” she added.

Moreover, Arman Candelaria also expressed his belief that CommuniCare must be held accountable for what he perceives as an abuse of the legal process.

He conveyed concern that by subjecting immigrant nurses and healthcare workers in similar situations to court proceedings, the company is sending a deterrent message to those contemplating leaving challenging work environments, suggesting that they will face pursuit if they attempt to escape.

The case, now under the purview of the NLRB, raises questions about the ethicality of TRAPs and their potential contribution to substandard working conditions within the healthcare sector.


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