Aug. 9, 2018
As a Result of Lawsuit, Florida Health Staffing Agency MedPro to Modify Employment Practices for Foreign-Educated Health Care Professionals
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of a settlement [PDF] of a Florida state court case between Management Health Systems, a Florida health staffing agency operating as MedPro, and Eden Selispara, a nurse MedPro brought to the United States from the Philippines, MedPro has agreed to modify its recruitment, placement and compensation practices for nurses and health care professionals it brings to the United States from abroad.
Over the past two decades, American health care facilities increasingly have relied on foreign-educated nurses to fill their staffing needs. More than 5,000 foreign-educated nurses are brought to the United States each year under special visa programs, particularly from the Philippines, India and other Asian countries. Dozens of companies in the United States and abroad recruit nurses internationally, obtain visas for them to immigrate to the United States, and then place them in short-term work assignments at health care facilities in the U.S.
Health care facilities pay the staffing companies for the nurses’ services, and the companies pay only a portion of that payment to the nurses as wages, while also providing training and related assistance. While abroad, nurses are recruited with the promise of the “American Dream” and the ability to earn money that they can send back to support their families, and are given contracts to sign committing them to multi-year employment.
Selispara signed a contract with MedPro in 2013 while she was still living abroad. Three years later, she was required to sign a revised contract if she wanted to come to the United States.
Selispara claimed that when she arrived in Sunrise, Fla., in 2017, she was assigned to a three-bedroom apartment with eight other immigrant health care workers and attended mandatory orientation and training conducted by MedPro. She remained in MedPro-provided housing in Sunrise for two months and was prohibited from obtaining other work or from traveling outside of South Florida. Over those two months, after deductions from payroll taxes, she received $2,500 – which she was told to save because she would need it for relocation costs for her first assignment. In those two months, she did not receive so much as a placement interview, while her savings dwindled and she was unable to provide support to family members back home.
Selispara alleged that when she confronted MedPro staff about her concerns regarding her lack of employment, MedPro employees threatened to report her to U.S. immigration officials for fraud and threatened “financial consequences” if she didn’t continue to wait for an assignment, without being paid wages. When Selispara decided to find a job for herself, she alleges that MedPro demanded an immediate payment of more than $150,000 and then filed a lawsuit against her for breach of contract when she didn’t pay.
Represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group and the firm of Varnell & Warwick, PA, Selispara filed counterclaims under both Florida and federal law in the Broward County Circuit Court. The parties resolved the lawsuit today, with MedPro agreeing to make improvements to its practices, without any party admitting wrongdoing. MedPro will modify its hiring practices so that nurses and other health care professionals better understand the terms of any contracts they are presented with, that nurses are paid for time spent in mandatory training and orientation, and that lawsuits or reporting to immigration are not used as threats.