Tag Archives: H-1B Wages

Right to a Written Decision for Dept. of Labor H-1B Wage Complaint

**This post was cross-posted at my other blog www.h1blegalrights.com.

If you’re an H-1B worker and filed a wage complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), you have a right to receive a written decision from DOL. DOL’s written decision must state important information, including: (1) if you are owed wages or not; (2) the reasons for the decision; and (3) your rights to appeal the decision, if you feel it is wrong, and the procedure and deadline to appeal it.

The attorney-authors of this blog have had some H-1B workers/ clients tell us that DOL did not issue them a written decision for their wage complaint. In some instances, the DOL investigator only told the H-1B worker the decision over the phone, did not give much detail about the reason behind the decision, and did not describe appeal rights or procedures.

Please know that you do have rights. If DOL is not allowing you to pursue those rights, you may need to tell DOL what they are required to do under the laws and regulations.

Specifically, the H-1B wage complaint regulation at 20 CFR 655.815 describes what a DOL investigator must do after investigating your H-1B wage complaint. In particular, this regulation says DOL must:

1. Mail a written decision (called a “determination) to you, the H-1B employer, and certain other people involved in the case.

2. This written determination must state DOL’s decision about your case and the reason for the decision. If DOL determines the employer has violated the laws or regulations, the decision must describe the remedies, such as back wages owed to you.

3. The determination must also explain appeal rights, how to file an appeal and the filing deadline.

If the DOL investigator has made a decision in your case, but has not given you anything in writing, you can write or email the investigator and mention the above obligations. That is, you can mention that 20 CFR 655.815 requires DOL to provide you with a written decision and notification about your appeal rights.

Please note that the appeal filing deadline is extremely short. So it may be necessary to follow up with DOL as soon as possible, in writing or an email, and seek a prompt written determination. It is important to get clarity, as soon as possible, about an appeal deadline and procedures. If an appeal is not timely filed, you may forever lose your legal rights to appeal.

If you have not received a written determination from DOL and are unable to address your concerns on your own, you could consider consulting with an experienced attorney to determine your options for proceeding with your case and protecting your legal rights.

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Wage Issues? Tip #10: Avoid Signing Documents You Disagree With

This post continues my series of tips, or things to consider, for workers with unpaid wages.

Tip #10 is this: Don’t Sign Documents the Employer Presents That You Disagree With, or Believe to Be False.

If you have unpaid wages, and an employer approaches you with a document to sign relating to the unpaid wages, chances are that document benefits the employer.

I am aware of employers who asked workers to sign off on:

  • Timecards or payroll documents with underreported wages. For example, some employers make automatic1/2-hour pay deductions for a lunch period everyday, despite the worker having to work through the lunch period many days. Such documentation should reflect your actual hours and pay before you should be made to sign off on it.
  • Settlement agreements that pay significantly less wages than the law requires.  Some employers, to their credit, self-identify wage underpayments and approach workers with settlement agreements in which the employers agree to pay the workers if the workers agree to waive potential legal claims. However, employers’ initial settlement offers (especially if the employees do not have attorneys) usually offer significantly less than the legally-required wages and/or damages. If it’s possible to have an attorney review and advise about a proposed settlement before applicable deadlines, this can be of assistance in potentially negotiating or winning a larger payment and avoiding potential pitfalls.
  • An arbitration agreement.  These agreements (if signed by the employee) take away the employee’s right to go to court for an employment dispute, and in some instances take away the right to participate in a class action lawsuit. The employee must participate in arbitration, a process which lacks the full rights available in court, and often involves an arbitrator hand-selected by the employer, who has routinely dealt with the employer’s matters. Employers’ ability to impose one-sided arbitration agreements became even more severe due to the Supreme Court’s AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion decision, which allows arbitration agreements to (1) limit employment disputes to an arbitration forum (and prohibit court as a forum); AND (2) take away an employee’s right to participate in a class action, whether in court or in arbitration.
  • False documentation, such as false work-leave forms, that serve the employer’s benefit.  This type of issue is common with H-1B workers, where some H-1B employers will try to get H-1B workers to sign forms indicating the workers took leaves of absence they did not in fact take. The H-1B employers who do this are often trying to cover up their “benching” of the workers and failure to pay the required wage.  If you are an H-1B worker (or employee of any kind) whose employer is confronting you with a false form, you should not sign the form and seek legal counsel before considering signature of something you know to be false and against your interests.

Please give careful time and thought to such documents before you sign them. If an employer is rushing or pressuring you to sign such documents, that is an even worse sign that the employer wants to act against your interests and not allow you a fair opportunity.

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Wage Issues? Tip #9: Don’t Drop the A- (Attorney-) Bomb

This post continues my series of tips, or things to consider, for workers with unpaid wages.

Tip #9 is this: Don’t Drop the A- (Attorney-) Bomb—that is, don’t tell the employer you have an attorney unless you really have an attorney and that attorney tells you to tell the employer you have an attorney.

Okay, that was a mouthful!

But as an attorney, I am often consulted by workers who– before they ever consulted with me or with another attorney– threatened the employer that they had done so.

I’ve even had workers who’d I’d never represented, and who’d never contacted me before, send their employers emails with my email address cc’d, to give the employer the impression that the workers had retained me.

Please do not make “A”-bomb threats like these!

Here’s why:

  • Employers often view attorney threats as empty threats, thinking that if you really were going to have an attorney go after the employer, the employer would have heard that from the attorney, not from you.
  • Employers who do believe the threat (1) will often try to hide their tracks and take concealed actions against you, now that you tipped them off you’re considering getting an attorney; and/or (2) will often try to get you to agree to a lowball settlement offer, before you get an attorney involved who may advise you of a higher potential case value and settlement valuation. Often, the employer does not offer a thing in result of the threat– I get inquiries from worker who were not only unsuccessful in that their A-Bomb threat got them no offer of wages or settlement money, but further, their threat resulted in the employer retaliating and/or firing them.
  • The threat rarely works as well as actually getting a wage attorney.

When I represent workers with unpaid wages, the decision about when and how to inform the employer of me being retained is a very careful and well-planned decision.

When a worker makes that decision before consulting with me, the news is often delivered in ways that I wouldn’t have advised– too soon, too late, too angrily, too vaguely, etc.

It’s a significant decision to tell the employer about an attorney or potential legal action. Please consider talking to an attorney before you tell the employer you’re in contact with an attorney.

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Work Hours Deducted From Paycheck? Don’t Give Your Employer a Free Lunch.

Free Lunch!
Image by LexnGer via Flickr

Has your employer deducted money from your paycheck for hours that you worked?

Some employers will make mandatory deductions from hourly workers’ paychecks, without regard to time actually worked.  For example, some employers will automatically deduct one half-hour per day for a “required” lunch period, and will make this deduction without checking whether the employee was actually OFF work, and actually took a break, during that time.

Moreover, the employee’s work circumstances may have given him or her no choice but to work through lunch.  It is one thing for an employer to say an employee is free to take a lunch break, or “must” take a lunch break every day.  But that expectation of the employer does little good if there are competing expectations (e.g. busy schedules, complaining customers, limited time available, etc.) that demand an employee perform work during the designated lunch time.

Please know that if you actually WORK during the deducted periods of time (e.g. you worked during the deducted “lunch” breaks), it is NOT acceptable for the employer to reap the benefits of your work without paying you.

It is not enough for the employer to claim they told you that you were prohibited from working.

The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) at 29 C.F.R. § 785.13 (Duty of management) provides the following:

“[I]t is the duty of the management to exercise its control and see that the work is not performed if it does not want it to be performed. It cannot sit back and accept the benefits without compensating for them. The mere promulgation of a rule against such work is not enough. Management has the power to enforce the rule and must make every effort to do so.”

If you are not being paid for work that you performed, you should consider having an employee rights attorney review your circumstances to see whether you should be receiving wages for the deducted periods, and whether the employer is violating wage law.  You may have good legal options to claim wages, and/or take back your free lunch.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is not legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship between you and attorney Michael Brown or his law firm.

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Filed under Employee Info/Tips - Pre-Litigation - Unpaid Wages, Employee Tip - Considering a Legal Action, Employee Tips - Unpaid Wages

Will I Be Deported If I Complain Against My H-1B Employer?

You know your employer is violating the law. Perhaps, he has benched you with no pay; is paying you less than the required wage; has you sending out resumes instead of writing a computer program.

So why do H-1B employees put up with this situation?

One of the main reasons an H-1B employee tolerates exploitation rather than filing a complaint against the employer is fear of being deported.

This fear is understandable, but protections do exist. Specifically, regulations prohibit the employer from threatening you and retaliating against you if you complain about his violations of the law. 20 CFR 655.801.

Read the full article on the blog H1BLegalRights.com.

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5 Reasons Why an H-1B Employer Would Want to Reach Settlement With An Underpaid Employee

 

 

If your H-1B employer (or former H-1B employer) underpaid your wages, you may be interested in complaining to the employer or pursuing legal action, but worried about what may happen to you. You may be worried that, if you complain about unpaid wages, you may lose your H-1B status, and be subject to deportation.

These are realistic concerns. Pursuing your legal rights indeed is a serious and delicate matter. You should thoroughly educate yourself on your legal rights and options before you take action or assume risks.

However, you should know that an underpaying H-1B employer has its own risks to worry about. The legal and financial consequences that an employer faces if found to have underpaid an H-1B employee’s wages could drive the employer out of business.

Rather than face the risks that result from a worker filing a legal complaint, fraudulent H-1B employers will often prefer to reach a settlement with an underpaid H-1B worker.

Fraudulent H-1B employers may well agree to a settlement that: (a) pays you your unpaid wages (and possibly more, given the possibility of legal penalty monies in addition to wages); (b) fixes any immigration-status problems (e.g. makes sure you receive valid payments and paystubs needed for H-1B transfer); and (c) agrees not to retaliate against you.

Below are 5 reasons why an underpaying H-1B employer should agree to such a settlement.

(Please note: This article is NOT advising you to demand settlement from your employer, to threaten your employer with legal action, or to take legal action. Before trying to negotiate a settlement or filing a legal complaint on your own, it is strongly advised that you talk to an attorney, such as an H-1B rights attorney and immigration attorney, about your own specific circumstances and legal options).

 

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H-1B Workers’ Fears vs. Fighting for Your Rights

Fear is the biggest factor that holds many H-1B workers back from approaching their employer (or former employer), and asking for their underpaid wages, or from taking legal action.

H-1B workers do in fact have several options and legal rights. Some of those rights are very powerful.

However, those rights will not do you any good unless you are willing to pursue them. To fight to enforce your rights. To make educated and bold decisions, and stick to them. To know that, in order to achieve what you want to, you will have to take on some risks.

A fraudulent H-1B employer has many more risks than an underpaid H-1B worker does. Many H-1B employers would be willing to discuss an amicable settlement with an underpaid H-1B worker rather than deal with a legal action, and face the potentially severe liabilities. Yet the employers don’t seem to worry nearly as much as do the H-1B employees.

If you are an H-1B worker, and are too fearful to talk to your employer about unpaid wages, I can understand where you’re coming from, and I could never judge you for feeling that way.

However, I do ask that you not contact me, asking me to spend hours of time discussing legal rights that you know you’d never pursue anyway, because of your fears. Only if it’s possible you could commit to assuming some risks and pursuing your rights could an attorney possibly help you.

If you don’t take action, you may well face risks (e.g. an employer’s underpayments could be hurting your immigration status). If you do take action, you may well face risks (e.g. the employer may threaten deportation). You’ve got to deal with your situation.

In dealing with your situation: (1) don’t let fear control you; (2) know the risks are there, and that you must deal with them; (3) educate yourself about your legal rights and options; (4) learn what options present the lowest risks and highest potential benefits; (5) make an educated decision; and (6) don’t second-guess yourself. Only if you are willing to overcome your fear and accept risks would you have any chance to obtain what you’re owed, and to improve your immigration status and options.

Additional Information

For more H-1B employee rights information, please visit the blog www.h1blegalrights.com.

To learn more about H-1B rights and options, please see these posts:

For information about H-1B Rights & Immigration Rights Attorneys Michael F. Brown and Vonda K. Vandaveer, please visit here.

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Filed under Employee Tip - Considering a Legal Action, Employee Tip - H-1B, Employee Tips - Unpaid Wages