The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has obtained an agreement for Maryland's Prince George's County Public Schools system to pay $4.2M to 1,044 workers to resolve violations of the H-1B program. DOL investigators found that PGCPS illegally reduced the wages of the H-1B workers by requiring them to pay USCIS filing fees, which effectively reduced their pay below the required H-1B wage.
Workers hired under the H-1B program must be paid at least the same wage and benefits as U.S. workers doing the same job in the same area, so that the wages of similarly employed U.S. workers are not adversely affected.
When filing an H-1B petition, USCIS requires up to four types of filing fees. These fees (with exception to the $750/$1500 U.S. Scholarship/Training fee which must always be paid by the employer) and attorney fees may be paid by either the employer or employee. However, payment of any fee by an employee must not result in the balance of his/her wage going below the required H-1B wage. The required H-1B wage is the prevailing wage or the wage the employer pays similar workers, whichever is higher.
PGCPS required its H-1B workers to pay filing fees and other costs associated with filing visa petitions, resulting in the workers' effective earnings going below the amount legally required.
Due to the willful nature of some of the violations, PGCPS also agreed to pay $100,000 in civil money penalties and be debarred for two years from filing H-1Bs. Under the statute governing the H-1B program, willful wage violations are subject to a debarment period of at least two years.
Although not an issue in the PGCPS case, a related issue H-1B employers must also realize is that H-1B workers must be paid during non-productive periods (i.e., no benching). For more information about the requirements of the H-1B visa program, review the Wage and Hour Division's H-1B Web page at http://www.dol.gov/whd/immigration/h1b.htm.