2nd May 2016 was a day of victory for the Filipino workers who received $15 million as compensation for damages when they sued L’Amande French Bakery for exploitation of labor, illegal immigration and related practices, human trafficking, damages for breach of California's Whistleblower and Retaliation Laws, discrimination and other charges. United States District Court judge for the Central District of California, Judge Fernando M. Olguin presided over the case and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
L’Amande French Bakery were slapped with a lawsuit in March 2015 by Latham & Watkins LLP and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA. L’Amande French Bakery is owned by Analiza (Ana) Moitinho de Almeida, a rich and powerful government officials’ daughter along her husband Goncalo. The Almeidas lured 11 Filipino workers under the ruse of E-2 Treaty Investor visa – a temporary work visa which is issued when employers of the same nationality registered as an E-2 Treaty Investor business want to hire candidates in a professional or supervisory role. They were not offered a supervisory role and were threatened with an $11,000 debt if they disagreed to work for at least three years, illegally.
They liquidated all their assets to avoid paying these workers. This led the plaintiffs to amend their court claim to thwart fraudulent transfers. In August 2015, they fled overseas and instructed their lawyers to not take any further action.
Christopher Lapinig, Attorney at Advancing Justice-LA expressed, "It is always an inspiration whenever individuals like the L'Amande workers gather the courage to stand up for their rights. Unfortunately, time and time again, we see exploitative employers – often with the help of friends and family – resort to fraud and other unlawful activity to escape accountability for their labor abuses. With this judgment, we hope to make clear to such employers that they can no longer act with impunity.”