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A Maryland school system agreed to pay $4.2 million in back wages to 1,044 teachers for violations of the H-1B temporary foreign worker program, the U.S. Department of Labor reported.
Prince George’s County Public Schools illegally reduced the wages of H-1B workers by requiring them to pay visa fees the school system was liable to pay, according to the department. Workers brought in on the temporary visa must be paid the same wage rates and benefits as U.S. workers doing the same jobs.
“The Labor Department has the responsibility for ensuring that employers who use the H-1B program follow the law and do not place U.S. workers at a disadvantage to H-1B workers," said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “We are pleased this investigation has been resolved with workers paid all the back wages to which they are entitled.”
The school system also agreed to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and be debarred for two years from filing petitions or requests for extensions under visa programs.
The teachers were hired by a previous administration when there were shortages of instructors in hard-to-fill subject areas such as math, science and special education.
“Obviously, this is not the outcome we had hoped for as these employees have provided an exceptional service to our school district,” school system spokesman Briant Coleman said in a statement. “PGCPS did everything possible to retain these excellent and valued employees. However, in the final analysis of the current state of our shrinking school budget and mounting legal fees, we determined that we simply could not afford to continue to operate this program.
“Under the terms of the agreement, PGCPS has agreed to pay $4.22 million to the Labor Department by September 30, 2011, which will be distributed to the temporary foreign national employees in accordance with DOL calculations,” Coleman said. “DOL has agreed to reduce the proposed civil money penalty to $100,000 contingent on the board’s agreement to terminate all visa sponsorship programs effective July 1, 2011. This decision is in the best interest of our school district and marks the end of a challenging chapter in our school district’s efforts to meet the mandates of the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act. Now it is time for us to move forward and continue to place highly effective teachers in every classroom in order to provide our students with the necessary skills they need to be successful.”