Comment from The Biltmore Co.:
Due to a miscommunication with an applicant who applied for a position at Biltmore, we inadvertently made a hiring decision that violated one of the provisions of the H-2B program. A local candidate applied for an open position, however, we understood this candidate was not interested in pursuing this entry-level job further. Having found no other local candidates during the recruitment process, the position was offered to an international employee who worked with us under the H-2B visa program.
We regret that we did not fully understand the local applicant’s desire for this entry-level position and have paid the fees as requested by the Department of Labor. In addition, we have made changes to our hiring process, requiring written documentation of offers to all potential job candidates.
One of the provisions of the H-2B program is that the same benefits be provided to both seasonal U.S. employees and seasonal H-2B employees. We provide the same benefits to both, with transportation and housing opportunities available to both local and H-2B seasonal employees. Through this process, however, we learned that an employee committee associated with our housing program did not meet the parameters of the H-2B program. We have eliminated that committee as a result.
Press release from the U.S. Department of Labor:
ASHEVILLE, NC – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Biltmore Co. – operating as Biltmore Workforce Management Inc. and based in Asheville, North Carolina – has paid $6,938 in back wages to a U.S. applicant for violating labor provisions of the H-2B visa program. The employer also paid a civil penalty of $24,076 assessed by WHD.
WHD determined that even though one U.S. applicant applied for and maintained his interest in a cook position with the Biltmore Estate, the company considered him overqualified and did not hire him, hiring instead a guest worker through the H-2B visa program. This action resulted in a violation of the H-2B program’s labor provisions, which mandate that participating employers must hire qualified U.S. workers over non-immigrant applicants.
WHD also found the employer failed to disclose to U.S. applicants that a reduced weekly housing rate was available to employees that participated in a housing committee. Biltmore Co. offered the reduced rate – that qualified as an additional benefit – only to non-immigrant employees.
“Employers need to be aware that failure to meet any of their obligations under the H-2B program may result in the assessment of civil money penalties, debarment from the program, reinstatement of displaced U.S. workers, and payment of back wages,” said Wage and Hour District Director Richard Blaylock, in Raleigh, North Carolina. “The U.S. Department of Labor’s efforts ensure that employers understand and abide by the requirements of the program to safeguard American workers against displacement while protecting foreign workers from being paid less than the wages they were promised. We encourages all employers to reach out to their local Wage and Hour Division office for assistance about how to comply and to avoid violations.”
For more information about the H-2B program and other laws enforced by the WHD, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.