Firm in H-1B case looks to hire only U.S. workers

Peri Software says increased use of U.S. workers leads to a 'marked improvement in client satisfaction'

A Newark, N.J.-based software firm that settled an H-1B case brought against it by the U.S. Department of Labor told Computerworld this week that it has set a goal of hiring U.S. workers for all of its domestic positions.

Under a settlement with the Labor Department disclosed last week, Peri Software Solutions Inc. agreed to pay about $638,000 in back wages to 67 H-1B workers.

The company said that its plan to increase reliance on U.S. workers isn't the result of the settlement, but was set because of business needs.

"We want to have our company reflect the local demographics as it helps to serve the clients better." said George McQuade, a spokesman for Peri, in an e-mail response to questions from Computerworld. "This improves our business as we foster better relationships with clients. The service is better due to cultural similarities."

McQuade also said with the increased use of U.S. workers, "we see marked improvement in client satisfaction, as well as client relationships."

This appears to be a turnabout for Peri, which has relied heavily on H-1B visa workers in the U.S.

The company says it has approximately 1,000 employees, including about 300 in the U.S., and others working in offices in India and China.

The Labor Department announced in February that it was bringing an H-1B case against Peri, which the U.S. contended owed back wages to 163 workers. The case went before an administrative judge who reduced the size of the government's claim.

Both sides subsequently agreed to the settlement, which was announced last week by the Labor Department. In addition to paying back wages, Peri agreed to pay about $127,000 in civil penalties and to be barred from participating in the H-1B program for one year, according to the consent decree.

The civil penalties were issued because Peri failed to provide notice of the filing of Labor Condition Applications at each place where any H-1B worker was to be employed, and for filing lawsuits against H-1B workers for early cessation of employment. DOL regulations require an employer to inform U.S. workers of the intent to hire a foreign worker by posting the LCA notice in the workplace.

In recent years, Peri gained government approval to hire nearly 190 H-1B workers -- 120 in 2007, 64 in 2008 and three in 2009, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services records.

Peri says about 30 of its employees now hold H-1B visas.

New Jersey has one of the higher concentrations of H-1B workers in the U.S., according a recent analysis of government data by Computerworld.

In a statement, Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, said that "Peri Software not only took advantage of these workers by not properly compensating them, it also violated the part of the law that provides the greatest protection to the American workforce.

"When companies participating in the H-1B program do not post filed labor condition applications, they clearly undercut American workers who may be qualified for available employment but aren't aware of it," said Leppink.

Peri was an H-1B dependent employer, a designation under which the Labor Department imposes additional recruitment requirements . Companies designated an H-1B dependent employer meet certain thresholds, such as companies of 50 employees or more with at least 15% of the staff holding H-1B visas.

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