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Press Release: New York Nursing Home Nurse Files Lawsuit to Stop Predatory Arbitration Seeking Tens of Thousands of Dollars Because He Left His Job

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Date: September 16, 2022

New York Nursing Home Nurse Files Lawsuit to Stop Predatory Arbitration Seeking Tens of Thousands of Dollars Because He Left His Job

Brooklyn, NY — Today, Benzor Shem Vidal, a New York nurse who immigrated from the Philippines, filed a lawsuit against his former employer, Advanced Care Staffing, in federal court in Brooklyn. In July, Advanced Care Staffing filed an arbitration demand against Mr. Vidal before the American Arbitration Association seeking tens of thousands of dollars in purported damages, attorney’s fees, and arbitration costs because Mr. Vidal decided to leave his job with the company. He seeks a declaration that the arbitration provision in Advanced Care staffing’s contract is invalid because it penalizes him with costs and fees that violate his rights under the trafficking laws, minimum wage laws, and because it is unconscionable. He is represented by Towards Justice, Kakalec Law PLLC, and Nichols Kaster PLLP. 

Mr. Vidal alleges that Advanced Care Staffing brought him into the United States on a green card and then subjected him to harsh working conditions, including staffing ratios at a Brooklyn nursing home that were so bad “he often could not physically get to patients fast enough to give them their medications or protect them against falls,” and he “commonly heard his patients moaning in agony as they waited for him or anyone else to provide them with care.” When he finally resigned, he alleges that the company’s lawyers threatened him with an arbitration seeking “at least $20,000,” including its purported “lost profits” for him leaving his job and its attorney’s fees, if he did not return to work. 

The New York Attorney General has recently announced settlements with an Albany hospital that used similar contractual provisions to keep mostly Filipino nurses trapped in their jobs. This case alleges an additional harm to workers: that the employer is using a predatory arbitration before the American Arbitration Association as a threat of serious financial harm designed to coerce Mr. Vidal’s labor. The potential financial harm includes allegedly tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees plus costs charged by AAA and its arbitrator, which include thousands in administrative costs and $450 per hour for the arbitrator’s time. 

“Predatory arbitration provisions, crammed in contracts that workers have no choice but to sign, are no longer just a shield to protect employers from getting sued for violating the law,” said David Seligman, Executive Director of Towards Justice. “They’re now also a sword, designed to intimidate workers from leaving their jobs and to collect thousands of dollars in debt from them if they do.”

“Arbitration provisions like the one our client had to sign as a condition of employment put workers in an impossible position: remain trapped in a bad job, or face financial ruin in the form of arbitration costs and attorney’s fees.” said Hugh Baran of Kakalec Law PLLC.

Contact: David Seligman (david@towardsjustice.org) & Hugh Baran (hugh@kakaleclaw.com)

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