09 Oct 2017
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
A FORMER VIP host has sued Imperial Pacific International for discrimination, alleging that IPI reneged on its promise to give her a promotion with a corresponding pay raise and claiming the company retaliated against her after she complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Rovie Anne Chopitea, a Filipino citizen, filed the civil action in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 as amended, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
Through her attorney Daniel Guidotti, Chopitea is asking the court to award her back-pay with prejudgement interest, in amounts to be determined at trial, plus other affirmative relief necessary “to eradicate the effects of IPI’s unlawful practices.”
Guidotti also asks for compensation for post- and future non-pecuniary losses resulting from IPI’s “unlawful employment practices, including emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation in amounts to be proven at trial.”
The lawyer accuses IPI of treating Chopitea with malice and reckless indifference and is asking the court to award reasonable costs and attorney’s fees and any other relief the court deem just and proper.
According to the complaint filed on Wednesday, IPI hired Chopitea as a VIP host but she did not work as a VIP host because she did not speak Chinese. Instead she worked at the Player’s Club on Nov. 10, 2015 and was paid $9 per hour.
Guidotti said IPI promoted Chopitea to shift supervisor and raised her wage rate to $16.83 per hour on Jan. 11, 2016.
On Oct. 22, 2016, Chopitea said her then-supervisor verbally informed her that IPI was promoting her to shift manager. The supervisor also announced Chopitea’s promotion to the entire department during a meeting and through WhatsApp.
She said IPI promised she would receive a raise in connection with her promotion and to provide her with a performance evaluation.
Chopitea also stated that in the absence of her then-supervisor she would regularly attend executive meetings with department heads.
But in Nov. 2016, she said an assistant director with IPI hired a male U.S. citizen of Chinese descent as a third shift manager.
Chopitea said she also learned that the newly hired shift manager was being paid an annual salary of $55,000 to perform exactly the same job she had been doing, for which she got paid $16.83 per hour.
She said as a shift manager, she had more responsibilities than the new shift manager as she had to train him.
After learning about the pay difference, Chopitea said she asked the IPI director of loyalty marketing regarding her pay raise.
She said she was told by the director that she was being disrespectful for inquiring about the status of the pay raise offer.
She said the director told her to be thankful as she was already receiving $16.83 per hour, and that she should know what was good for her.
Chopitea then emailed the IPI department director regarding her salary adjustment as a shift manager.
She said the department director responded that IPI would address her salary increase during a team salary review.
In mid-Feb. 2017, Chopitea learned that another employee had received an offer letter for the shift manager’s position and a corresponding pay raise.
In March 2017, and after months of inquiring about her pay raise and offer letter, Chopitea filed a grievance letter with the IPI human resources department.
In her grievance, Chopitea claimed IPI was discriminating against her because she is a Filipino citizen.
A month later, the HR department informed Chopitea her complaint would be processed within seven days, but it never took action on the matter, he added.
Guidotti said after receiving no response from HR for over a month his client filed an EEOC complaint on May 23, 2017 in which she alleged that she was discriminated because of her national origin.
Prior to filing the complaint, she informed senior management officials of her plan to bring her case to EEOC. IPI management officials informed her that IPI would not retaliate against her, Guidotti said.
The EEOC notified IPI of the complaint by Chopitea in late May or early June of 2017.
According to Chopitea, she flew back to Philippines on May 24, 2017 to be with her husband who had a medical condition.
Although she planned to return to Saipan in May she informed the management that she would be extending her stay in the Philippines through July 10 due to her husband’s surgery.
Chopitea in her complaint stated that on her first day back at work at IPI she was called to a meeting with the HR department.
At the meeting, she said she was questioned about the days she allegedly failed to show up for work in April 2017 and May 2017 even though she gave notification of her absence.
In her complaint, she alleged that she was called to an HR department meeting to be harassed for filing a grievance and discrimination charges with the EEOC.
Chopitea alleged that the marketing director began a campaign of retaliation against her.
Chopitea stated that the director began scrutinizing her performance and requiring other employees under the director to report about her performance.
The director also allegedly changed Chopitea’s work schedule to cause her distress and inconvenience and openly treated her with hostility, the lawsuit stated.
When Chopitea asked her immediate supervisors to restore her old work schedule because she was having transportation issues, they refused.
Chopitea’s complaint also stated that after three days and another meeting with the HR department she had an emotional breakdown.
She said she requested for a sick leave but was denied. Doctors told her that she was suffering from hypertension, she added.
On July 24, 2017, and after 10 months of working as a shift manager without receiving her promised pay raise, IPI notified Chopitea that she had merely assumed she had been promoted and that the promotion was a misunderstanding.
Chopitea then asked IPI why it encouraged her to perform the shift manager responsibilities for 10 months.
She also sent a resignation letter to her department head giving a 30- day notice and citing the hostile work environment created by her immediate supervisors which, she said, caused her hypertension to worsen.
Guidotti said without warning, IPI disabled Chopitea’s email account which violated its own internal procedures.
A week later, Guidotti said, Chopitea received an email from the HR department inviting her to meet with the Philippine consul.
In the meeting, an IPI staffer told Chopitea that the company would pay for her repatriation to the Philippines but in exchange, Chopitea must sign a piece of paper stating that she would not sue IPI.
She was also told by HR department that even though she had filed a complaint with the EEOC it did not mean she had a case.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/99135-ex-vip-host-sues-for-discrimination