BALCA remands case – Pro se employer not given adequate rebuttal notice

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) recently vacated the final determination of a Certifying Office (CO) denying labor certification for an alien worker for the position of “Reverend,” and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In the aforementioned case, the employer filed an application for labor certification on behalf of a foreign alien to fill the position of Reverend. The CO notified the employer that it needed to provide the prevailing wage for the position or its equivalent. In response to the notification, the employer stated a rate of pay of $8.00 per hour. Thereafter, the CO sent the Employer a document entitled “Recruitment Instructions.” The instructions informed the employer that the prevailing wage was $11.79 for the job and that the employer should advertise the job at that particular rate of pay to obey regulations. Subsequently, the employer placed newspaper advertisements illustrating that the rate of pay was $8.00 per hour. When the recruitment report was submitted to the CO, there was no explanation to indicate why the employer had used the $8.00 rate of pay. The CO issued a Notice of Findings (NOF) proposing to deny certification because the $11.79 prevailing wage had not been used in the Employer’s advertisement. The CO further explained to the employer that to rebut the NOF, it must provide a copy of an advertisement and an internal posting placed during the recruitment period, and the advertisement must reflect the prevailing wage provided in the Recruitment Instructions letter. In response, the employer re-submitted its earlier advertisement and did not further discuss the reason for using the $8.00 rate of pay. The CO issued a final determination denying certification because the advertisement had stated a wage of $8.00 per hour. The employer requested BALCA review arguing that it complied with the CO’s instructions for advertising; however, it never mentioned nor explained the reason for running advertisements with the $8.00 wage rate rather than the $11.79 prevailing wage.

Upon BALCA review, the regulation at 20 C.F.R. § 656.20 (c)(2) provides guidance and requires that an employer offer a wage that equals or exceeds the prevailing wage. According to case law, where an employer is notified that its wage offer is below the prevailing wage, but fails to either raise the wage to the prevailing wage or justify the lower wage it is offering, certification is properly denied. An employer seeking to challenge the prevailing wage bears the burden of establishing both that the CO’s determination is in error and that the employer’s wage offer is at or above the correct prevailing wage. It is the responsibility of the CO to provide the employer with adequate notice of its burden on rebuttal. Upon further review, BALCA determined that the employer, who was pro se – was not given adequate notice of its burden. Specifically, the CO had informed the employer of the option to use a lower wage if it could document that the lower wage was appropriate; however, the NOF only gave the employer the option to produce an advertisement establishing that the $11.79 rate was issued. It did not give the employer the option of rebutting by documenting that a lower wage was appropriate. This failure to correctly state the Employer’s burden of proof necessitates a remand for issuance of a new NOF. The new NOF will provide the employer with an option to establish through documentation that its wage offer was appropriate for the proffered position. Accordingly, BALCA vacated the final determination of the CO in denying certification and remanded the case for further proceedings.