A few weeks ago we wrote about a legal complaint against an H-1B body-shop employer that highlighted a unique process for American citizens or green-card holders to contest unscrupulous employers who exploit the H-1B program.
In our prior story, we discussed the complaint process within the Department of Justice (DOJ), in which American citizens and green card holders can pursue employers who violate anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by rejecting U.S.-citizen and green-card employment applicants and targeting H-1B workers and other visa holders instead. (Often a company that preferentially hires H-1B workers to the disadvantage of U.S. citizen workers will go on to exploit the H-1B workers by benching or otherwise underpaying them; our blog discusses legal rights and claims for underpaid H-1B workers).
Today we follow up on our prior story, to report on the settlement the accused company reached with the DOJ on the complaint.
DOJ Reaches Settlement With IT Staffing Company Whiz International
Less than a month after filing its complaint in May 2012, DOJ reached a settlement with Whiz International LLC, an information technology staffing company in Jersey City, N.J., regarding allegations that the company unlawfully terminated an employee in retaliation for opposing Whiz’s preference for H-1B workers and other foreign nationals with temporary work visas. The INA laws prohibit U.S. employers from exclusively or preferentially focusing on hiring H-1B workers, and thereby discriminating against U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the hiring process.
The complaint, which was filed May 22, 2012, alleged that the company directed the receptionist to target H-1B and other visa holders in its recruitment efforts and when she objected, terminated her. The anti-discrimination provision in the INA prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who oppose a practice that is illegal or who attempt to assert rights under the law.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the company agreed to pay $21,780 in damages to the receptionist, which included back pay and front pay, along with a $1,000 civil penalty. The company has also agreed to be subject to three years of monitoring and reporting by DOJ.
The procedure for filing a complaint and the handling of the complaint itself with the DOJ is different from the process used by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). With DOJ, an aggrieved worker can file what is known as a “charge” directly or through a representative such as an attorney. DOJ will investigate the charge and decide whether to file a complaint with an Administrative Law Judge.
If DOJ declines to file a complaint, a worker may still pursue his or her complaint directly by filing it with the Administrative Law Judge.
If you are considering the filing of a DOJ complaint, or if you filed a DOJ complaint but DOJ has declined to pursue your complaint, before you act further, you should consider speaking with a competent attorney about your rights and options.
Information about the DOJ complaint process is available on the DOJ website here: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/
For more information about the legal services we offer H-1B workers, see our page here.