Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools system violated the law when it reduced the wages of 1,044 foreign teachers hired under the H-1B program, concluded a recent U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigation.
The school system had required the H-1B teachers to pay a total of $4,224,146 in fees, which reduced H-1B teacher wages below the required wage. The district must now return the money in back wages and will be fined $1.7 million in civil money penalties.
“All employers, including school systems, are required to follow the law,” said Nancy J. Leppink, acting administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, in a news release. “That includes the legal duty to pay every teacher hired the full wages he or she is owed.”
The district may also be disallowed from filing new petitions for foreign workers, requesting extensions for current workers, or requesting permanent residency for any foreign workers currently employed.
The H-1B program allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers deemed professional to work in the U.S. for a temporary time period. To prevent exploitation of such foreign workers, and to ensure that prevailing or actual wages are not undercut by foreign workers willing to work a lower wage rate, employers must pay them at least the same wages and benefits as they would pay to a U.S. worker performing the same job in the same location.
Employers who choose to employ foreigners from the H-1B program are required by law to pay certain fees. The Prince George County Public Schools system, instead of paying the fees as required, charged the foreign workers those fees and then deducted those amounts from H-1B worker paychecks. This resulted in the foreign workers being paid substantially less than their American counterparts.
The H-1B teachers involved in the violation, some 800 of which were from the Philippines, expressed hope for “an equitable solution to the problem.”
“We are grateful to DOL for conducting this investigation, but most important is that our teachers’ right to have their visas renewed and their permanent resident applications processed continuously should not be jeopardized,” said Millet Panga, secretary of the Philippine Educators Network.
Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com