HR professionals or owners are faced with my conflicting HR questions or situations everyday and how to solve the issues can vary depending on who you ask. Many business owners or HR professionals often ponder the same question, “Is there an agency or source where I can go to get guidance or assistance on these HR issues?”. Well now there is a solution! www.HumanResourceBlog.com is now available for any HR professional to come and share their thoughts, questions, or issues and to openly discuss the situation or issue at hand. Where else would you be able to go to find a community or center that has professionals sharing your same common problems and also having suggestions for you to possibly consider. Like they say, two brains is better than one. In this particular case, it’s two professionals better than one!
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A Cambridge, Massachusetts-based IT firm has agreed to pay $2.4 million in back wages to workers after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation.
Patni Computer Systems, Inc. agreed to pay an average of $3,953.87 to each of 607 non-immigrant employees following pressure from the federal government.
An investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found that computer professionals employed under the H-1B visa program were being paid less than the amount required by law. This settlement covers wages earned between January 2004 and December 2005.
By law, companies cannot pay workers with an H-1B visa less than their American counterparts. The purpose here is two-fold. The law prevents the exploitation of immigrants by companies such as Patni, and it prevents the importation of cheap technical laborers, particularly in high-demand fields like the IT industry.
“The department is committed to vigorously enforcing the H-1B provisions that guard against employers undercutting American workers by underpaying temporary foreign workers,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.
The H-1B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in professional occupations such as computer programmers, engineers, physicians and teachers. These immigrants fill a demand for highly-trained workers in the U.S. However, H-1B workers must be paid at least the same wage rates as are paid to U.S. workers who perform the same type of work. In addition, they must earn the prevailing wages in the areas of intended employment.
This arrangement allows American employers to hire highly qualified candidates from outside the U.S. when they don’t have enough qualified candidates. However, the restrictions prevent the H-1B program from hurting American workers by eliminating unfair competition from abroad.
Such Foreign labor certification programs permit U.S. employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary or permanent basis to fill jobs essential to the U.S. economy. “These programs are generally designed to ensure that the admission of foreign workers into the United States on a permanent or temporary basis will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers,” according to a U.S. Department of Labor publication.
While there are several federal agencies involved with granting permission for foreign workers to live and work in the United States, employers generally must first obtain certification through the U.S. Department of Labor. Certification may be granted in cases where it can be demonstrated that there are not enough qualified U.S. workers available or willing to perform the work. However, that work must be at wages that meet or exceed the prevailing wage for that occupation in the industry.
Very simply put, if a U.S. Computer Analyst normally earns $100,000 per year, a company cannot import a candidate and pay him or her only $40,000 per year. That is considered destructive both for the employee and for the U.S. labor market.
After a company is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, the employer generally must petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) for a visa on behalf of the foreign worker. Approval by DOL does not guarantee that the foreign worker will receive a visa. The applicant must also establish that they are admissible to the United States under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Several federal agencies are involved in issuing an H-1B visa. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (or ETA) provides labor certifications to the employer. The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration (also known as ESA) at the Labor Department is responsible for investigating any misrepresentations or violations under the H-1B visa regulations. The ESA also investigates violations of the law regarding H1B1 and H-2A visas, as well as violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Employers in Massachusetts who do workers’ comp—which is basically all of you out there with employees other than yourselves—you should know about an important rate change in the state’s workers’ comp system. The new workers’ comp rate in the Bay State is lower, on an average of 16.9 percent lower than the last workers’ comp rate.
Back in March, the Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts had submitted a rate that was actually 3.5 percentage points higher than the rate that actually went through. The Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts is just a non profit organization run by insurance companies, however, that can only recommend to the state what it should set as its workers’ comp rate.
This new rate was established by the State Rating Bureau of the state’s Division of Insurance, as well as the state attorney general. It will go into effect starting Sept. 1 of 2007. According to a representative of the Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts, though the insurance companies did not get the rate that they had asked for, the insurance companies still feel that it is a good balanced rate that allows employers to have lower workers’ comp rates in the state, but allows insurance companies to earn money and stay in business in the state.
One of the reasons for the lower workers’ comp rates in the state could be the fact that the comp system in Massachusetts has seen lower rates of workplace injuries in the state, and lower costs for medical claims resulting from workplace injuries and illnesses. One of the reasons this could be possible is that you, the Massachusetts employers, have focused attention on putting up safety posters and other measures to reduce workplace injuries and accidents.
Here is one of those topics that I seem to be talking about more and more lately. It could be because of all of the people in the armed services at the moment, or it could be because more and more employers know about the value of hiring this type of employee. But we sure have been talking about vets a lot lately here at this blog whatever the reason.
For instance, Massachusetts recently announced how it is giving tax credits when employers hire veterans at their businesses. That is right. You heard it here first. The state of Massachusetts offers employers tax breaks when they employ veterans. All the vet needs to do is fill out a form when they get hired and file that form with the Department of Workforce Development in Massachusetts. The paperwork must be given to the employer in this case before they even hire the vet on the job.
If these conditions are met, and the vet is in fact a vet of military service for this country, then the Massachusetts employer can get up to $2400 in tax credits for each vet they hire I believe. The employers especially get this credit if the vet happens to be disabled or in a low income tier bracket.
Employers interested in hearing more can either contact the Department of Workforce Development in Massachusetts, or the Department of Veterans’ Services in the state as well. Just the tax break money alone is worth the effort to get more details on this program by the state of Massachusetts. But just think of the benefit that you could give to the vet returning from serving his or her country, possibly disabled, as well as the family and children of that vet, when you hire them at your company.
The Department of Revenue is the agency in the state of Massachusetts that handles the new hire reporting for employers. The Department of Revenue in Massachusetts collects all of the new hire information from employers, as well as information on independent contractors, and has the job of putting it all together on a computer database.
Then the Massachusetts Department of Revenue compares its own database for new hires with a database for people who are not paying their required child support payments. When a match comes up between the two lists, then the Massachusetts Department of Revenue contacts you, the employer. They then ask you to withhold funds from that employee’s paycheck so that they can begin to pay off their child support payments. Or the state Department of Revenue will ask you to remit funds directly to them.
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue doesn’t stop there. It next compares its database of names of new hires to other databases, particularly those that have to do with public welfare benefits, such as food stamps, unemployment compensation, and transitional assistance. Here, the comparative databases are provided by other Massachusetts agencies, like the Department of Transitional Assistance and the Department of Unemployment Assistance. The purpose of these checks are to make sure that people should be getting these programs, and that people who are that shouldn’t be are stopped. We’re talking millions in fraud money that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue could put a halt to.
To this end, Massachusetts employers, consider it your duty to report all of your new employees and new independent contractors to the Department of Revenue. You should double check first before you start whether or not the payroll service you use already does the reporting for you, because some do, or can if you ask them.