Justice Department Announces Settlement in H-2B Discrimination Case
This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement agreement on September 18, 2018, with Palmetto Beach Hospitality LLC (Palmetto), a company that provides housekeeping services to hotels in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, area. The agreement resolves the Department’s investigation into whether Palmetto unlawfully denied employment to qualified and available U.S. workers because it preferred to hire temporary foreign workers on H-2B visas.
DOJ said it is the fourth settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s “Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative,” which is aimed at targeting, investigating and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa workers.
The DOJ investigation determined that Palmetto failed to consider applications from qualified U.S. workers for its housekeeper positions even though employers must recruit and hire available and qualified U.S. workers before they receive permission to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2B visa program. After ignoring applications from U.S. workers, Palmetto represented to the Department of Labor (DOL) that it could not find qualified U.S. workers and obtained authorization to employ temporary visa workers, DOJ said.
Under the settlement, Palmetto must engage in several types of enhanced recruiting and job advertising efforts to attract qualified U.S. workers, far beyond those required by the H-2B visa rules. Palmetto also must set aside $35,000 to pay any wages lost by U.S. workers whose applications it improperly rejected or ignored and pay $42,000 in civil penalties to the United States. Palmetto also is subject to DOJ monitoring.
Under the initiative, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has opened dozens of investigations, filed one lawsuit and reached settlement agreements with four employers. Since the initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed over $320,000 in back pay to affected U.S. workers. The Division has also increased its collaboration with other federal agencies, including a new formalized partnership with DOL to combat discrimination and abuse by employers using foreign workers.