An employment services company based in Michigan has agreed to pay $1.1 million in back pay to approximately 600 H-1B employees after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) found that the company failed to pay those employees during holiday time-off periods. Under federal immigration law, employers cannot withhold pay from H-1B workers during nonproductive time caused by conditions related to employment, such as holidays or slow work seasons, a practice known as “benching.”
As we have been reporting, the Trump Administration, as part of its effort to reform the immigration system, has identified curbing alleged abuse of the H-1B program as a top priority. The WHD, which has the authority to enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) labor standard protections for certain temporary foreign workers, considers going after “benching” to be in line with this mission because it helps to safeguard American jobs by ensuring that employers do not hire H-1B employees knowing they can bench them during slow times.
The settlement reached in this case serves as a reminder to employers who use H-1B workers that the law does not allow their “benching” when they don’t work on holidays, even if the employer is not paying other employees for holiday time. It also provides another example of the scrutiny that employers who utilize the H-1B program will likely continue to face from the current Administration.
Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.