Firm fined $45,000 over alleged H-1B favoritism

Computer consulting firm placed ads that "expressly favored" temporary visa holders over U.S. citizens and other longer-term residents, says Justice Department.

A Pittsburgh computer consulting company accused of showing a preference for H-1B temporary visa holders in its job vacancy ads has agreed to pay a $45,000 fine as part of a settlement with the federal government.

During a monthlong period in spring 2006, the firm iGate Mastech published 30 job postings, that, by the U.S. Department of Justice's description, "expressly favored H-1B visa holders to the exclusion of U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and other legal U.S. workers." That behavior violates the Immigration and Nationality Act's provisions, which bar employment discrimination based on whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen, the Justice Department said.

"We are committed to protecting the right of all authorized workers in the United States against citizenship status discrimination," said Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division, which conducted the investigation and said it would continue to monitor iGate's practices.

In addition to the fine, the settlement requires iGate to train its recruiters and to post a "nondiscrimination statement" on its Web site.

A list of frequently asked questions at the Justice Department's Web site says that in job postings, employers "may not express a preference for H-1B candidates or other individuals requiring sponsorship or employment visas."

An iGate representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. The company, founded in 1986, describes itself on its Web site as a provider of "technical and functional consulting services to Fortune 500 corporations, on the technologies that drive their businesses," with clients including Carnival Cruise Lines, Exxon Mobil, Ford, GE, IBM, and Verizon. It has locations in Europe and Asia and employs about 1,000 people.

The Justice Department's action comes just a few weeks after U.S. immigration officials reported receiving more than 163,000 petitions vying for a congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 visas. Another 20,000 slots are reserved for foreigners holding advanced degrees from U.S. universities. H-1Bs allow foreigners with at least a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty to work in the United States for up to six years.

Some members of Congress have proposed doubling or tripling the cap in response to intense lobbying from large high-tech companies like Microsoft, Oracle, and Google. They say they need more visas to fill critical gaps in their operations, particularly since so many foreigners obtain math, science, and engineering degrees from American schools, or they'll be forced to move more work offshore . Meanwhile, other politicians have voiced concerns about abuses of the system and have proposed measures that would require employers hoping to hire H-1B workers to do more to seek qualified Americans first.

 

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