Asian Workers File Complaint Against California Resort

Terranea Resort faces allegations of exploiting workers hailing from the Philippines, India, and Malaysia.


A resort in California is under scrutiny following accusations of trafficking and exploitation of migrant workers mostly hailing from Asian countries. Unite Here, a hotel workers’ union, filed a complaint on behalf of Kolkata couple Falak Rashid and Wahid Rahman who were allegedly misled by an “internship” offer from the Terranea Resort.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. Department of State on Dec. 22, Terranea Resort hires migrant workers from the Philippines, India, and Malaysia on J-1 visas to replace its entire entry-level cook workforce, violating State Department regulations, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The lawsuit is seeking investigation into the resort’s internship program where prospective interns were promised training in a variety of cuisines via promotional videos and Skype interviews. Rashid, 23, and Rahman, 24, paid for the year-long program beginning Aug. 15 last year that was intended to train them and further their career after their graduation from a culinary school in Kolkata. The reality of the resort apparently came crashing down on them after they paid to get to the internship, only to find they were performing the same tasks as ordinary workers, and, as per their complaint, “don’t receive raises or benefits.”

According to the complaint, 45 interns in 2017 became the resort’s entry-level employees.

As much as 60 per cent of full-time entry-level positions are currently filled with interns from the international internship program, NextShark reported citing an old employee of the resort.

According to Rashid and Rahman, they spent $15,000 together on airfare, visas, and placement fees just to participate in the “internship”. They looked for their own house in Los Angeles, bought their own kitchen supplies, and other necessities. They quit in less than two months and are looking for a reimbursement of their expenses, as they now have $11,000 in debt.

Jon Tuason, a student of a culinary school in the Philippines who was recruited by the resort in 2015, told the Los Angeles Times that he was in the room service kitchen for about five months before he was allowed to move to the cold kitchen where he spent the rest of his internship peeling fruit and making salads.

“I felt like a manufacturing machine,” Tuason told the publication.  “I knew it was going to be hard work — I was expecting that.  But I was at least expecting to learn something from it.”

Terranea’s practices allegedly violate federal human trafficking laws against fraudulent recruiting or hiring foreign workers under false pretenses, according to the complaint.

Jessie Burns, a representative of the resort, dismissed the complaints and called them baseless, the report said. She said that over 160 students have benefited from the program since 2011 and that some of the former students have opened their own restaurants or become chefs.

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