Imperial Pacific ordered to pay ex-workers HK$42 million in damages for workplace coercion

Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (1076) has been ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands to pay US$5.4 million (HK$42 million) in damages for workplace coercion to seven Chinese construction workers formerly recruited to build its casino.

The seven plaintiffs sued Imperial Pacific in 2019, alleging that they were forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions, denied medical care for injuries and threatened with deportation and death.

Chief Judge Ramona Manglona of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands issued the ruling on Monday after Imperial Pacific’s Chairman, Cui Lijie, repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to exchange information with the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. Cui Lijie was found in contempt of court in an earlier ruling in February.

In Monday’s ruling, the Chief Judge found plaintiff Wang Tianming sustained burns to his lower left leg when a spark ignited as he was cutting a metal barrel under the direction of his supervisor. The supervisor told Wang he would be arrested if he went to the hospital and instead gave him two rolls of gauze. A doctor who later examined Wang said he suffered chronic pain and numbness and his left leg muscles had atrophied.

The US$5.4 million award covers lost income and future lost income for the workers, payments for emotional distress, pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.

Imperial Pacific has reported a loss of HK$2.85 billion for the year ended 31 December 2020, impacted by the closure of Imperial Palace • Saipan since March last year. The embattled company has got its gaming licence suspended for failing to pay its annual US$15.5 million license fee for 2020 and its regulatory fee of US$3.1 million. It is also facing a fine of US$6.6 million. The firm said it would try its best to pay up the sums in order to resume its licence.