ZAJI O. Zajradhara has filed a complaint against CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente in federal court over the nonpayment of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Zajradhara, who is representing himself, is alleging “pain and suffering, public humiliation, retaliation, constructive denial, violation of public policy and intentional infliction of emotional distress and mental anguish.”

He is asking the court to allow him to proceed without prepaying court fees or costs, and to issue an order instructing DOL to pay him $7,380.

“I have already been adjudicated as a beneficiary of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment/PUA benefits,” he stated in his complaint. “The DOL has purposely not paid my PUA benefits in quite some time even after repeated phone calls/emails.”

He also accused the DOL secretary of “overtly retaliating” against him because he has requested a full audit of her department.

Zajradhara is requesting the District Court for the NMI to issue an order instructing the DOL to pay him a lump sum of what he is owed.

He also requested an award of damages.

He said he has been locked out of his PUA online account since Feb. 6, 2021, and that a staffer at DOL gave him two passwords, but “they did not work.”

He said when he informed the staffer about it, the DOL employee told him that he would call back but never did.

“I was also informed that their phones can see who is calling, that is why my calls go unanswered,” he said.

Zajradhara is known for filing labor cases against businesses in the CNMI. Most of his complaints allege violations of the U.S. citizen and/or CNMI resident hiring preference law.

In November 2020, the Department of Public Safety said it received a call regarding a possible threat against CNMI DOL on Capital Hill.

At the scene, police said they met with a DOL employee who stated that she was on a phone call with a PUA applicant — Zaji Zajradhara — who stated that he would “go up and begin shooting if he had a gun.”

In March 2019, six House members introduced House Resolution 21-5 “to declare Zaji O. Zajradhara, formerly known as Steven Carl Farmer, a persona non-grata in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

According to the resolution, the Legislature is “cognizant of the malicious and ill-mannered actions of Zaji O. Zajradhara…in his filings of numerous labor claims against various businesses in the CNMI….”

The resolution stated that Zajradhara “has also expressed a violent and threatening nature to such businesses…and to the employees of the Department of Labor….”

Reporter

Bryan Manabat studied criminal justice at Northern Marianas College. He covers the community, tourism, business, police and court beats.

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