Land transportation & border securityConsulting firm settles H-1B discrimination case

Published 10 May 2008

Against the backdrop of growing controversy over the H1-B visa program, Department of Justice fines consulting firm which advertised computer jobs for H1-B visa holders only; company was accused of discriminating against qualified U.S. workers who would have been eligible for the jobs

The U.S. government fined a consulting firm $45,000 for placing online job ads for computer programmers that said only H-1B visa holders should apply. The case is just the tip of an iceberg of H-1B abuses, according to a lobbying group that filed the original complaint. The Department of Justice said that Pittsburgh-based iGate Mastech Inc. placed 30 online job ads in May and June 2006 asking for only H-1B visa holders. The case is one of 215 the DoJ has handled involving preference for H-1B workers over U.S. citizens since the year 2000. One of the iGate ads was for a Java programmer in the Midwest. It stated “Only H-1s Apply, and should be willing to transfer H-1B.” Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, in a press statement issued 1 May that “We are pleased to have reached the settlement with iGate, and look forward to continuing to work with the business community to educate the public about the protections and obligations under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” EETimes’s Rick Merritt writes that the settlement also requires iGate to train its recruitment personnel and to post a non-discrimination statement on its Web site. Calls to iGate were not returned by press time.

According to Ed Perkins, chair of an IEEE-USA committee on workplace policies, “this case illustrates the need for Congress to act against such egregious misuses of the H-1B visa program, by passing legislation such as Senators Durbin and Grassley’s H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.” The Programmers Guild, a lobbying group for software developers, claims it has tracked as many as 5,000 such online ads from 1,000 companies. The iGate compliant was one of 300 the group has drafted, about 100 of which it has actually filed with the DoJ, said John Miano, a software consultant who founded the group and serves as its treasurer. “We’re just dealing with cases where people actually have posted blatant ads like this, not necessarily all the cases of people who abuse H-1B visas,” said Miano who earned a law degree and actively investigates such cases on behalf of the Guild. Miano claims the majority of H-1B visa holders in the computer field come from what he called “body shops” that obtain H-1B visas for technical workers for a fee and then rent out