Former IPI employee awarded US$5.6m in discrimination lawsuit

Joshua Gray has been awarded over $5m.
Joshua Gray has been awarded over $5m.

Joshua Gray had sued the company for alleged discrimination.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Chief judge Ramona V. Manglona of the NMI District Court has ruled in favour of Joshua Gray, a former Imperial Pacific International (IPI) employee who sued the company for discrimination. IPI must pay US$5.68m in compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the more than 40-page ruling published on May 30, Gray is to receive US$121,545.55 in back pay, US$300,000 in future lost wages and US$1m in damages for emotional distress. Gray had originally claimed US$3,939,768 in compensatory damages, with a 7:1 ratio for punitive damages, amounting to US$31,518,144 in damages.

After reviewing the evidence and case law, Manglona granted Gray’s motion for a default judgment for the lesser amount, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, default interest and post-judgment interest at the applicable federal rate.

Gray’s case against IPI dates back to September 2015, when the casino operator’s former employee was hired as director of operations. Ten months later, Gray filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming that IPI favoured foreign workers over qualified US citizens. Among his allegations, Gray said he was passed over for a position in favour of an ethnically Chinese employee. 

Gray and IPI reached a settlement, resulting in Gray assuming the role of assistant vice president – front office with a comparable salary. However, Gray claimed that he continued to face marginalisation within the company. He cited instances of being excluded from meetings related to his responsibilities and being assigned to a project he deemed unviable.

Gray’s perceived mistreatment escalated when he discovered that his responsibilities were being transferred to someone with no prior experience. He reported feeling disheartened and embarrassed when he was excluded from the planning phase of IPI’s Mariana Resort project. 

According to Mariana’s Variety, the situation reached a tipping point when Gray had a meeting with IPI executives, during which it was alleged that IPI’s owner made derogatory comments and ordered the termination of Gray’s employment. Despite warnings about the illegality of the termination, Gray was eventually let go, prompting Gray to file additional charges with the EEOC. 

Decision pending in arbitration hearing between IPI and CCC

Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero says arbitrator Thomas J. Brewer has yet to deliver a decision following the three-day arbitration with Imperial Pacific International in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The outcome could have far-reaching implications for the gaming industry in Saipan and the islands as a whole, potentially deciding the future of IPI’s exclusive casino licence. The legal dispute surrounds the ability of IPI to fulfil the financial obligations of its Casino Licence Agreement. It was brought before the US District Court for the NMI after IPI appealed against its licence suspension.

While there is no specified timeframe for Brewer to issue a decision, DeLeon Guerrero expressed hope that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) will prevail in the arbitration.

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Imperial Pacific International