Court denies teacher recruiting firm’s refund appeal

The Louisiana Supreme Court on Friday rejected a California firm’s bid to avoid refunding $1.8 million in placement fees collected from 360 Filipino teachers recruited to work in East Baton Rouge Parish and other public school systems in the state.

The high court, without comment, refused to hear Universal Placement International’s appeal of a state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruling in July that UPI — which is licensed to do business in Louisiana — did not have a license to operate a private employment service in the state.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Workforce Commission had asked the 1st Circuit to reject UPI’s appeal of Administrative Law Judge Shelly Dick’s 2010 order that the company refund the placement fees. State District Judge Janice Clark later affirmed the order.

“We’re glad that this matter is finally settled,” AFT lawyer Dan McNeil said Friday. “The teachers look forward to Universal returning to them the money that it collected illegally.”

UPI contends that in Louisiana, as opposed to California, the firm has been operating as a placement service rather than an employment service, so it does not need a license from the LWC.

The 1st Circuit panel, however, said UPI meets the definition of an employment service under Louisiana law.

UPI attorneys had argued to the appellate court that the company was “sought out’’ by the state-run Recovery School District, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and other school districts in the state to help fill a shortage of certified teachers.

More than 200 of the Filipino teachers found their way into classrooms in Baton Rouge.

Attorneys for the teacher unions and the LWC told the 1st Circuit the dispute began with several teachers complaining about fees UPI charged that the teachers felt were unfair and excessive.