Federal judge says Scopus Consulting Group and Orian Engineers abused the H-1B worker-visa program by underpaying foreign workers, depressing regional wages and unfairly undercutting competitors
By Sharon Simonson
Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen R. Henley ordered two businesses owned by Kishore Kumar to pay 21 workers $84,000 in back wages and $103,000 in fines to the federal government after investigators for the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour division found both companies failed to follow federal foreign-worker visa rules.
Both worker-placement companies provided workers to Cupertino-based Apple Inc., and San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc. and eBay Inc., according to the government.
“Some of the country’s most cutting-edge, successful organizations benefit from underpaid H-1B workers,” Susana Blanco, director for the Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco, said in a prepared statement. “H-1B workers must be paid local prevailing wages. We will not allow companies to undercut local wages and hurt U.S. workers and businesses who pay their workers fairly.”
The division found that Orian and Scopus violated H1-B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act in multiple ways. The agency found that both companies misrepresented the “prevailing wage” on Labor Condition Applications that both filed with the U.S. Employment and Training Administration as part of the process to gain foreign-worker visas. The companies also failed to provide adequate notice of their plans to hire non-U.S. citizens to U.S. citizens who might have been well-placed to fill the positions; such notice is required by law.
In addition, the employers recruited experienced workers, most of whom have master’s degrees, but paid them as entry-level employees. Both firms have been barred from H-1B program participation for a year.
Of nearly $58,000 in back wages due to Scopus workers, more than 40 percent — roughly $12,000 each — went to two workers identified in public records as Bhaskar Mishra and Binita Modi. The largest sum in back wages due from Orian went to Laurent V. Nguyen, who was determined to be owed nearly $7,000 in back wages.
Public records provided to SiliconValleyOneWorld.com did not say what precipitated the Wage and Hour Division interest in the two Sunnyvale companies. The division investigated Scopus’ activities including petitioning for and employing H-1B workers from Jan. 1, 2010, to April 30, 2012, and Orian’s activities from April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2013.
The H-1B program applies to employers seeking to hire nonimmigrant workers in specialty occupations that require specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. The H-1B provisions seek to help employers who cannot obtain needed business skills and abilities from U.S. workers and authorizes temporary employment of qualified individuals who otherwise are not authorized to work in the United States.