back to article HCL accused of wage theft, underpaying H-1B workers by at least $95m a year

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has published an analysis accusing Indian services company HCL of systemic underpayment of workers holding H-1B visas issued to skilled migrants in the US. HCL insists it is following Uncle Sam's rules and isn't doing anything wrong. In a report published last week, the American think tank' …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some smaller consulting firms are honest and upstanding; I worked for no shady outfits during my years consulting in the US and Canada (about 20 years total between the two.) But I got the absolute creeps at some of the "offers" and onerous requirements from some of the larger firms south of the border.

    For some strange reason, the large outfits think they're doing you a "favour" by sponsoring you, whereas the smaller firms recognize that you are committing to work through them for several years, too. It is a two-way street of benefit, but some firms don't see that. All they see is a lever they think they can use to increase their margins, which is a shame, because by doing so, they drive away the best of the talent, which isn't willing to put up with such nonsense.

    The industry in North America has a special name for such firms: Body Shops.

    They'll plop any BODY who claims to be able to do the job on site... as long as the margins are right.

  2. mikus

    Nothing like modern day slavery, or at least indentured servitude. They want to come over, will work for nothing just to get there, and their own people are happy to sell them at an extreme profit. Then once here, the H1B is held over their heads indefinitely by the importer as a goal they can't achieve while paying them as little as possible.

    Sounds like how America was founded alright.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    In other news

    The National Park Service had determined that Ursine mammals do indeed defecate in Silvicultural environments

    The CIA has uncovered links between the Pope and the Catholic church

  4. YetAnotherJoeBlow

    To fix this...

    All that needs to be done is to add the following line to the reg:

    Any attempt to use this reg to avoid paying the proper wage for an available U.S. worker

    shall be considered a criminal offense (felony.)

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: To fix this...

      I saw these issues when I came to the US on an H-1B visa in the early 80s, the explanation I was given was, "You got an H-1B visa because we could not find any American citizens who knew how to build and repair these British made medical devices so the rule does not apply to you."

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: To fix this...

        I also came over to the US on an H-1 in the early 80s and the rules were that you had to not be displacing local talent and you were not allowed to undercut their wages.

        Maybe its the 'B' that makes the difference? I was also under the impression that you needed a postgraduate degree in a relevant subject and significant experience to qualify. If all you needed was the modern H1-B requirement then either the rules have changed significantly or someone's working the system (or both).

        1. Sven Coenye

          Re: To fix this...

          I held an H-1B visa through the mid-90s. The B does make a lot of difference. It did not have the "no displacement" clause attached. The main requirements were that the position needed at least a BA and wages had to be at or above "market rates" (only INS had no statistics on that - that is where the gaming started. By the time it was time for me to renew, that piece had been delegated to the Dept of Labor and they got lost in their own paperwork.) The rules have changed significantly since those days. The program has become unrecognizable and is now mostly a money printing machine for the Feds.

          1. AmyInNH

            Re: To fix this...

            A money printing machine for most businesses that are using foreign labor. Between the non-competitive wages, and the out and out wage theft, the immobility or limited of the worker, and the widespread use of foreign workers on these terms, the employment market is widely damaged for most workers.

  5. Withdrawn

    Big business...

    loves the current state of immigration labor in the US. Not only do you get the H1B situation above, but they have also learned that the low wages illegal immigrants can expect would be cheaper than owning slave laborers. Slavery never really went away here. It was transformed by large firms into a more efficient and less obvious model.

  6. batfink

    There is no shortage of skilled labour

    There is only a shortage of people who want to work for the wages on offer.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: There is no shortage of skilled labour

      No there is no shortage of people who want to work for the wages they offer, they are just in India and will do so for the promise of a US citizenship.

      So long as they don't find out that the wait time for H1B->Green card->citizenship is currently > 100years

  7. lowwall

    I work at a US immigration law firm. There is no requirement to recruit for US workers for the H-1B. That's why it is limited both in time (3 years, renewable once) and in the number of visas. The recruitment requirement is for employer sponsorship for permanent residence (a green card) through the labor certification process. BTW, there is no current backlog on green cards through the labor certification process. If the employer is willing to try it and all the hoops get successfully jumped through, it could be completed in under a year.

    The H-1B does include a requirement to pay the prevailing wage for that job in that location. The prevailing wages are actually quite reasonable for technical positions. These wages are public information and, following dotcom era abuses of the system, employers can be and often are audited to ensure they actually pay them. But employers can still game this in at least three ways. First by substituting a lower paying job title than what the person will actually be doing. The second is by claiming the position has a lower experience level than is actually required (there are 4 wage levels for each job based on the required experience). The third way is the most egregious and frankly should not be allowed, but employers can claim that the position is only part time or that they use a 35 hour week and then make the person work full time.

    1. AmyInNH

      short on job knowledge

      If you work at an immigration law firm, shame on you for your lack of knowledge on this topic.

      - On the very paperwork for an H1 is employer attesting that they tried to recruit US workers.

      - There is no limit on the number of H1-B visas, due to exemptions for hires in Medicine, Gov, Ed and Research. And transfers. And anyone with a green card application pending.

      - Employment based green cards are a fixed number per year, and a fixed number per nationality of the applicant. There is a significant backlog for those from India (though many of them have their names in multiple queues - employment, family, etc.) and a smaller backlog for those from China. And that is due to both's racist use of H1 for hiring only compatriots.

      - The legal requirement to pay prevailing wage is irrelevant, a) as what is "prevailing" in the nation is not what's prevailing wage in major metros NYC, SF, Boston, Austin, Atlanta, etc. and b) they aren't here for work and money, they're here for a shot at a green card and won't be ringing DOL when they're ripped off.

      The only stop to this extensive fraud is: H1, 1 year, no renewals, no transition to green card queue, and pay is made to gov, who issues pay to the H1. Truly "temporary", truly "expert". No *good* reason for letting industry have control over US' immigration.

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