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Zirintusa v. Whitaker

January 3, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge


Pending before the Court is Rosa Whitaker's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Upon careful consideration of the motion, response and reply thereto, and supplemental briefings, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Whitaker's motion.


Plaintiff Idah Zirintusa is a Ugandan citizen who currently resides in the United States on a student visa. Compl. ¶ 9. Prior to her arrival in the United States, Zirintusa worked as a Catering Officer at the Uganda State House, the residence of the president of Uganda. Id. ¶ 16. As a Catering Officer, Zirintusa earned a base salary and per diem during travel and received a benefits package that included housing, health insurance, transportation, bonuses, and a scholarship for one of her children to attend a private school. Id. ¶ 17. Zirintusa signed renewed employment agreements with the Uganda State House, and those agreements were for a term of years. Id. ¶ 18. Zirintusa was not an at-will employee in Uganda. Id.

Defendant Rosa Whitaker was formerly the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa before starting her own consulting firm in 2002. Id. ¶ 10. Zirintusa first met Whitaker in or around September 2002 when Whitaker was visiting the Ugandan president. Id. ¶ 19. Over the next year or two, Whitaker attempted to lure Zirintusa from her job to come work for Whitaker in the United States, but Zirintusa refused her offers. Id. ¶20-22. During her conversations with Zirintusa, Whitaker allegedly promised employment for a period of three years, four times the wages Zirintusa earned in Uganda, full tuition at a U.S. college, food, shelter and healthcare in the United States, and separate payments to support Zirintusa's family in Uganda. Id. ¶ 21.

In February 2002, Whitaker approached the Ugandan president and other state officials and expressed her desire to have Zirintusa come work for her in Washington, D.C. Id. ¶ 23. Zirintusa was told by her Ugandan employer that she was "allowed" to work in the United States and that she would not be able to get her old job upon her return. Id. Zirintusa understood this to mean that she was being terminated from her position in the Uganda State House, so she reluctantly accepted Whitaker's offer of employment on the terms that Whitaker had previously proposed to her. Id. ¶ 25.

With Whitaker's assistance, Zirintusa came to the United States on a student visa. Id. ¶ 26. Whitaker sponsored the student visa and submitted an Affidavit of Support (Form I-134) to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Department of Homeland Security or DHS) in December 2003. Id. ¶ 27. By signing the Affidavit of Support, Whitaker agreed that she would maintain and support Zirintusa and prevent Zirintusa from becoming a public charge for a period of three years. See Affidavit of Support, Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss.

Zirintusa arrived in the United States on August 18, 2004. Compl. ¶ 31. The day after Zirintusa arrived, Whitaker instructed her to begin to perform domestic tasks in Whitaker's home. Id. The following week, Whitaker took Zirintusa to the home of Whitaker's friend, Pauline Harris, and instructed Zirintusa to clean Harris's house once a week. Id. ¶ 32. Zirintusa alleges that Harris paid Whitaker for Zirintusa's services and that Zirintusa never received any payment from Harris. Id. Zirintusa worked for 17 weeks for approximately 60 hours a week -- six 8-hours days per week for Whitaker and one 12-hour day per week for Harris. Id. ¶ 34. Zirintusa alleges that Whitaker paid her less salary than was originally promised and Whitaker did not pay for her food or healthcare as promised. Id.

¶¶ 33, 35.

Zirintusa complained to Whitaker that she was unhappy with her working conditions and that Whitaker was not honoring her promises. Id. ¶ 36. Zirintusa alleges that she was terminated from her employment in retaliation for her complaints. Id.

On or about December 18, 2004, Zirintusa met with Sheila Williams -- Whitaker's sister and Chief of Staff at the Whitaker Group. Id. ¶ 39. During that meeting, Williams had Zirintusa sign a scholarship participation form dated April 21, 2004 that Zirintusa had never seen before. Id. Six days later, on December 24, 2004, Williams informed Zirintusa that she was terminated from her employment for Whitaker, effective immediately. Id. ¶ 40. Zirintusa then signed, at Williams's direction, another document stating that she declined to accept a return ticket to Uganda and a $1,500 resettlement sum, and that she would identify a new financial sponsor in the United States. Id.

On August 31, 2005, Zirintusa filed a complaint in this Court alleging breach of an employment agreement, breach of the Affidavit of Support, violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, violations of the D.C. Payment and Collection of Wages Law and D.C. Minimum Wage Act, tortious interference with contract and prospective advantage, fraud, and unjust enrichment. Whitaker filed a motion to dismiss on November 17, 2005 and a motion for judgment on the pleadings on December 22, 2005. On January 17, 2006, this Court denied Whitaker's motion to dismiss and took the motion for judgment on the pleadings under advisement.


A. Standard of ...

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