Programmers file federal complaints over 'H-1B only' ads

They're upset that companies are targeting visa holders for tech jobs

The Programmers Guild is filing a stack of complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice against some 300 IT employers it says are discriminating against U.S. citizens and permanent residents by placing advertisements that specifically seek "H-1B only" visa holders or workers who have student or L-1 visas.

John Miano, founder of the Summit, N.J.-based Programmers Guild, said today that he has collected some 1,500 IT job advertisements in the past six weeks from a variety of online jobs boards that express preference for hiring visa holders. Miano said the practice is widespread because "for the most part, there isn't much enforcement going on. So we are trying to do what we can do to bring private enforcement against these employers."

Miano said H-1B workers are in demand because "they are cheap and they make good slave labor." The guild has filed about 100 complaints with the DOJ's Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Discrimination, and it plans to file another 200.

It's not too difficult to find IT job advertisements that seek specific skills, and H-1B opponents have long circulated examples of these advertisements on mailing lists.

For instance, in a search on the job board run by Dice Inc., iGate Mastech, a Pittsburgh-based IT staffing agency with about 1,000 employees, has an advertisement for eight Java developers with three to five years of Java development experience. The ad says: "Only looking for H-1B visas and should be willing to transfer."

The iGate Mastech recruiter listed as the contact for job openings said the ad should have said the positions were open to U.S. job holders and called it a typo. But iGate officials said the job was placed for a U.S. firm that was having trouble finding Java developers.

Murali Balasubramanyam, senior vice president of human resources and recruiting at iGate Mastech, said that particular job advertisement is for a large client that first tried to hire U.S. citizens and permanent residents and was unable to do so. When clients "cannot find suitable candidates, they come to staffing companies like us and say, 'We haven't been able to find a local citizen here; can you now get us an H-1B candidate?'"

Balasubramanyam said that for whatever reason, the IT employer may not be comfortable sponsoring the H-1B visa holders themselves and turn to IT staffing firms for help. Other iGate Mastech ads on Dice that were checked did not have similar H-1B-specific requirements.

Miano said that iGate Mastech is one of the companies he has filed a complaint against, and he noted that some of the companies seeking H-1B employees may be small, possibly operating out of a private residence in some cases, or are staffing agencies. Larger, better-known IT vendors aren't cited in his complaints.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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