Published August 23, 2018
A U.S. District Court in Chicago ruled this week, in denying the defendant’s effort at dismissal, that an undocumented Pakistani’s involuntary servitude and forced labor lawsuit against his former employer, a gas station owner, can proceed. The defendant’s former employer must now formally respond to and defend the lawsuit which alleges the gas station owner essentially enslaved the plaintiff worker, withheld his wages, kept his passport and issued regular threats of deportation.
According to the lawsuit, in 2003 the plaintiff/worker, Munawar Ali, was offered employment at the defendant, Sohail Khan’s Illinois gas station, although Ali lacked proper immigration status. Ali accepted with the understanding he would receive regular wages. Howeever, Khan withheld compensation, forced Ali to live at the gas station, and even coerced Ali to carry out unpaid household work at Ali’s residence Furthermore, every time Ali attempted to leave the job, Khan would respond with verbal abuse, threats to report him to immigration authorities and continued refusal to pay him already accumulate, earned wages. In June 2007, Ali “physically escaped” from the defendant, but without being compensated or having his passport returned. In his lawsuit, Ali claims he is owed more than $100,000 in back wages along with other damages.
“Mr. Ali was forced to withstand all these injustices because he was fearful that his immigration status would not allow him to seek legal recourse. He eventually chose to seek legal assistance when he was fired from the [Indiana gas station] and no longer had any hope of reaching an amicable resolution to his conflict with Mr. Khan,” according to Ali’s federal civil complaint.
The defendant’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit centered on the premise that Ali’s claims of forced labor and physical restraint were implausible. According to documents filed in support of dismissal, the defendant asserts “Ali’s claim he was forced to fold laundry and mow the lawn at Khan’s home, because Khan purportedly yelled at him and took his passport, simply does not rise to the level of coercion necessary to state a cause of action”.
In issuing her ruling allowing the lawsuit to proceed (although dismissing some of the claims), the judge agreed that the defendant’s continued coercion of Ali and threats to report him to immigration authorities were indeed realistic enough to overcome defendant’s efforts to dismiss the entire lawsuit at this early stage. The case in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, is captioned as Ali v. Khan, No. 1:17-cv-04025
PUBLISHED August 23, 2018– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2018, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois