IBM settles with U.S. over alleged discrimination in job ads

IBM agrees to pay $44,500 for ads that U.S. government said showed preference for visa holders

The U.S. Dept. of Justice and IBM have settled charges the company posted job ads with a preference for visa holders, something the government says is discriminatory.

The online job ads for application and software developers included "citizenship status preferences for F-1 and H-1B visa holders," said the Justice Dept., in a statement Friday.

In the settlement agreement, IBM agreed to pay $44,400 in civil penalties to the U.S., and to "revise its hiring and recruiting procedures and train its human resources personnel to ensure compliance" with the law.

In a statement, IBM spokesman Douglas Shelton said that "since 2009, IBM has posted over 44,000 job requisitions in the US and abroad. This matter concerned a small fraction of those postings and involved positions that were to be permanently located abroad. We are pleased this matter has been resolved."

The Justice Dept., acknowledged that the successful candidates for the IBM jobs would ultimately be required to move overseas, but "the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not permit employers to express or imply a preference for temporary visa holders over U.S. workers, such as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, for any employment opportunity in the United States."

Lee Conrad, the National Coordinator at the Alliance@IBM, said the job ads "confirms what IBM employees have been saying for years, that there is systematic discrimination going on in hiring."

As a general rule, job ads that that include either overt or somewhat coded invitations for foreign visa workers, have long been cited as a problem by H-1B visa policy critics. An example of a coded invitation might involve the use of "freshers," a term widely used in India to describe recent graduates.

Most the companies that get cited by critics are smaller tech and consulting firms. In 2008, the DOJ announced a similar settlement against iGate Mastech for jobs ads that favored H-1B visa holders.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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