DOL Administrative Review Board orders payment of back wages to H-1B visa holder

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Administrative Review Board (ARB) recently upheld the final decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who found that the petitioner failed to pay the H-1B beneficiary the required wage under the H-1B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The petitioner, a not-for-profit corporation that operates medical clinics sought the expertise of the beneficiary, a medical doctor. After interviewing the beneficiary, a “Physician Employment Agreement” was signed which reflected an annual wage of $125,000. Thereafter, an H-1B petition was filed to hire the beneficiary as a full time medical doctor with H-1B non-immigrant status for three years. A Labor Condition Application (LCA) was filed along with the petition on behalf of the beneficiary listing the prevailing wage as $118,222 for the position. The beneficiary began working for the petitioner in June 2004 and was allegedly terminated in March 2005. During the course of the beneficiary’s nine-months of employment, he was paid a total of $49,000 in wages. The $49,000 (or $65,333.33 per year) falls below both the $125,000 per year wage that the beneficiary contracted for and the prevailing wage of $118,222 listed in the LCA. The beneficiary thereafter reported the wage violation to the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division who conducted a hearing and entered a decision in favor of the beneficiary. The petitioner thereafter sought review of the decision by the ARB.

The ARB found the petitioner liable for back wages calculated using the prevailing wage rate of $118,222 per year for the beneficiary’s nine-month employment during which time he worked as assigned and made himself available for work. According to the regulations, when an employer signs and files an LCA, he is attesting that for the entire “period of authorized employment” the listed wage rate will be paid to the H-1B non-immigrant. One of the ways in which an employer may escape liability is if they effect a bona fide termination and inform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immediately, and where appropriate provide the nonimmigrant employee with payment for transportation home. In this case, a bona fide termination did not occur until November 2005, when DHS was informed of the revocation of the H-1B petition. Accordingly, the petitioner was liable for payment of wages until the time of termination. The petitioner should have paid the beneficiary a total of $88,666.47 in wages for the nine months in which he worked.

In summary, the ARB found the petitioner liable to the beneficiary for back wages in the amount of $39,666.47. Additionally, the beneficiary is entitled to pre- and post-judgment interest.