Labor department issues rule-making for H-2B

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration recently announced the publication of a proposed rule that seeks to improve the H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker program and better protect American workers.

The rule, to be published in the Federal Register, addresses the calculations used to set wage rates for H-2B workers. The H-2B program allows the entry of foreign workers into the U.S. when qualified American workers are not available and when the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed American workers.

The H-2B program is limited by law to a program cap of 66,000 visas per year. The previous administration promulgated H-2B regulations and did not seek comment in the rule-making process on the data used to set wage rates.

Appropriate wages

Since the 2008 final rule took effect, however, the department has grown increasingly concerned that the current calculation method does not adequately reflect the appropriate wages necessary to ensure American workers are not adversely affected by the employment of H-2B workers.

On Aug. 30, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the regulations issued by the department in 2008 had violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The court ordered the department to promulgate new rules that are in compliance with the APA concerning the calculation of the prevailing wage rate in the H-2B program no later than 120 days from the date of the order.

The announcement begins the process of complying with the order and with achieving the department’s goal of fully protecting the job opportunities and wages of American workers. The department anticipates a future rule-making that will address other aspects of the H-2B program.

Wages

The proposed regulation would require employers to pay H-2B and American workers recruited in connection with an H-2B job application a wage that meets or exceeds the highest of: The prevailing wage, the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage or the local minimum wage.

Under the proposed rule, the prevailing wage would be based on the highest of the following: Wages established under an agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement. A wage rate established under the Davis-Bacon Act or the Service Contract Act for that occupation in the area of intended employment.

Feedback

The proposed rule eliminates the use of private wage surveys, as well as the current four-tier wage structure that differentiates wage rates by the theoretical level of experience, education and supervision required to perform the job, a system that is not relevant to the unskilled positions generally involved in the H-2B program.

If interested, submit comments on the proposed rule via the federal e-rule-making portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

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