According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, a Philadelphia-area swimming pool contractor has been ordered to pay $317,097 in back wages to three U.S. and56workersfromMexicoemployed by the Pennsylvania swimming pool subcontractor under the federal H-2B guest worker visa program.
The order follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found GSI Pool Finishes Inc. violated provisions of the H-2B program by failing to pay required wages to the U.S. and foreign workers. The employer illegally paid the workers, hired as cement masons, a piece rate not at least equal to the applicable required offered wage rate. The incorrect wage rate resulted in the workers being owed $266,627 in back wages by the employer.
According to a statement made by Jim Cain, District Director of the Department’s Wage and Hour Division, these vulnerable workers left their home country to come to the U.S. to work under conditions clearly defined by the H-2B visa program.
“They deserve every protection that comes along with those promised conditions,” Cain said. “The Department of Labor protects workers’ rights and is diligent in its efforts to ensure they receive the wages they earn. Employers who choose to participate in the H-2B program must ensure they are aware of their obligations and abide by the law.”
The Department of Labor said that the employer additionally violated H-2B program provisions when it:
• Did not include housing availability in its advertisement or Temporary Employment Certification.
• Failed to conduct drug tests and criminal background checks, despite advertising that it would.
• Improperly classified three workers as a yard helper, truck shop helper and warehouse helper. The employer was only permitted to employ workers as cement masons.
• Failed to include all required information on the employees’ earning statements.
• Did not provide inbound, outbound and daily subsistence to workers for their travel to and from the employer’s worksite from either the U.S. or hometowns in Mexico.
• Failed to provide workers with a written job disclosure, as required by H-2B regulations.
• Did not keep accurate records of employee hours worked and any monies paid to workers for travel.
• Failed to recruit U.S. workers as required, as part of supplemental recruitment in 2018.
The H-2B violations led the division to assess $67,649 in civil money penalties. In addition, the employer must pay the workers $50,470 in travel expenses as part of their back wages.
S ama n t h a Th oma s , t h e Department’s Deputy Regional Solicitor, said that they will vigorously pursue litigation against employers who violate H-2B program requirements and will work hard to make sure the rights of workers to receive the wages and benefits are legally protected.
SIW445-CCH-WinCamp_FullPgAd_8p375x10p875_r02.pdf 1 1/25/23 1:50 PM “Those who wrongly believe they can ignore the law are deeply mistaken and will be held accountable,” she said.
The federal H-2B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the U.S. The employment must be temporary in nature and be for a limited period, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load or intermittent need.