In 2011, Jane Doe, an Ethiopian national in her 30s filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against a State Department employee Linda Howard and her husband, Russell Howard, alleging involuntary servitude, forced labor and human trafficking in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).
The complaint also alleges the rape of Jane Doe by Russell Howard, reportedly an Australian national, and a dependent of employee Linda Howard.
According to the complaint, Linda Howard met and hired Jane Doe during her assignment at the US Embassy in Yemen. Jane Doe was paid $200 a month as a housekeeper and made no allegation of mistreatment while employed in Yemen. In late 2008, Linda Howard was reportedly reassigned to the US Embassy in Tokyo. Jane Doe agreed to move to Japan with Linda Howard to continue working as a housekeeper. Their signed contract reportedly guaranteed $300 a month, time off each week, health insurance and a safe place to live and work.
Among the other allegations made by Jane Doe:
- She was forced to work more than 80 hours a week for less than a dollar an hour; the exact amount was $0.88 an hour; the minimum hourly wage at the time of Jane Doe’s employment was $6.55 an hour.
- She was raped and was forced to engaged in sexual acts with Russell Howard in the Howards’ Tokyo residence.
- She was threatened with deportation from Japan by Mr. Howard
- The complaint says that after five months Jane Doe fled the Howards’ home and found help at a shelter in Tokyo. The women’s shelter reported the abuse to the US Embassy in Tokyo. While at the shelter Jane Doe met with Diplomatic Security investigators. When the case was filed in October 2011, it includes the following item: “Upon information and belief, the State Department’s investigation is still pending.”
- At the time the lawsuit was filed, she alleged that while Linda Howard was removed from her posting at the US Embassy in Tokyo, Mrs. Howard remains employed by the State Department.
Some nasty, nasty stuff on this one, read the original complaint here.
The Courthouse News Service which reported this case on September 6 says that Linda Howard is currently an IT manager with the State Department in Washington, D.C.’s citing her profile on the professional-networking website LinkedIn. The profile notes that Howard worked as a “manager” for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo from 2008 to 2009. Before that, Howard worked for three years, from 2005 – 2008 as “Senior IT Manager, Acting Administrative Management Officer, Acting Human Resources Officer and alternate Financial Officer” at the Embassy in Yemen, according to the profile
The report from LexisNexis® Mealey’s™ Legal News says that when Russell Howard, who is from Australia, failed to respond to Jane Doe’s complaint, and Linda Howard’s answer to the complaint was stricken pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), Doe moved for default judgment, which Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones Jr. granted in an Aug. 7 report and recommendation.
… the judgment against Linda Howard was appropriate based on the four factors established in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (269 F.3d 305, 348 [4th Cir. 2001]): bad faith, amount of prejudice, need for deterrence and effectiveness of less drastic sanctions.
Linda Howard acted in bad faith by telling the court that she was unaware of any upcoming overseas job-related travel and then two weeks later retiring and leaving the country, the magistrate judge said.
“There is a great need to deter defendants from determining that the proper response to litigation is to leave the country and refuse to participate in the resolution of a dispute. Finally, in light of Mrs. Howard’s flight from the country, it is clear that less drastic sanctions would not be effective.”
The Court awarded Jane Doe total damages in the amount of $3,306,468, broken down as follows.
- $1,250,000 for compensatory emotional distress relating to forced sexual servitude
- $44,500 in compensatory damages for forced labor and trafficking
- $2,000,000 punitive damages “in light of the Howards’ intentional egregious and outrageous conduct”
- $11,968 for back wages and liquidated award as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act damages under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)
The court documents relating to this case are available here to read (some documents listed need to be purchased before you can read them). The Court’s opinion dated September 4, 2012 is here in pdf.