IT staffing, recruitment biz settles claims it discriminated against Americans

Foreign workers favored over US residents because that's what clients wanted, allegedly

Amtex Systems Incorporated, an IT staffing and recruiting firm based in New York City, has agreed to settle claims it discriminated against American workers because company clients wanted workers with temporary visas.

The US Department of Justice on Wednesday announced the agreement, which followed from a US citizen filing a discrimination complaint with the DoJ's Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).

"IT staffing agencies cannot unlawfully exclude applicants or impose additional burdens because of someone’s citizenship or immigration status," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement. "The Civil Rights Division is committed to enforcing the law to ensure that job applicants, including US workers, are protected from unlawful discrimination."

Companies may seek out workers under temporary work visas because they cost less to employ. "H-2B employers like the H-2B program because they are legally permitted to pay H-2B workers less than similarly situated US workers," explained Daniel Costa, Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, Economic Policy Institute, in written testimony [PDF] presented to a Senate subcommittee in 2016.

Also, temporary employees may be limited in their ability to leave for better work opportunities or negotiate better wages.

Among numerous US visa programs for non-immigrants, the H-2A program covers temporary agricultural workers. The H-2B program covers temporary non-agricultural workers. There's also the H-1B program, which is particularly popular in the tech sector because it's for those in specialty occupations. The J-1 visa program allows foreign students, teachers, and other professionals to work in the US for a short time.

Corporate abuse of these programs has been a contentious issue for years. In 2017, under the Trump administration, the Civil Rights Division’s IER introduced the Protecting US Workers Initiative, an effort to take legal action against companies that discriminate against US workers by favoring those with temporary visas.

Since then, the IER has opened dozens of investigations and reached numerous settlements with companies found to be favoring temporary visa holders, including landscape biz Triple H Services LLC, Honda Aircraft Company LLC, MJFT Hotels of Flushing LLC, Sinai Health System Inc, IT staffing firm AllianceIT, Challenger Sports Corporation, and Igloo Products Corp, among others.

Perhaps the highest profile company recently to settle DoJ charges of hiring temporary visa holders over US workers is Meta subsidiary Facebook, which in October, 2021, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4.75m and up to $9.5m to eligible victims of the alleged discrimination.

Amtex Systems Incorporated (SI), according to the DoJ settlement agreement [PDF], worked with an Indian business to identify and screen job applicants that fit client preferences for workers with specific citizenship or immigration statuses.

"IER’s investigation found evidence that in at least January 2021, Amtex SS sent emails containing citizenship or immigration status preferences when soliciting job candidates on Amtex SI’s behalf, yet did not ask for or obtain any evidence that the clients had a legal justification for those preferences," the settlement agreement explains.

The investigation concluded that some Amtex SI recruiters "engaged in a pattern or practice of implementing clients’ unlawful citizenship status preferences for job candidates in or around January 2021" by "emailing job ads with discriminatory preferences that deterred potential candidates from applying" and by "refusing to consider at least two protected US worker candidates for 'OPT preferred' job opportunities, based on their citizenship status."

Amtex SI has agreed to pay $15,000 in civil penalties, to revise its policies, to train its employees, and to be monitored for three years to ensure the company is complying with its commitments.

Amtex SI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ®

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