Washington, DC - The Justice Department Tuesday reached a settlement agreement with Palmetto Beach Hospitality LLC (Palmetto), a company that provides housekeeping services to hotels in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area. The agreement resolves the Department’s investigation into whether Palmetto unlawfully denied employment to qualified and available U.S. workers because it preferred to hire temporary foreign workers with H-2B visas. It is the fourth settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary visa workers.
The Department’s investigation determined that Palmetto failed to consider applications from qualified U.S. workers for its housekeeper positions, even though employers are required to recruit and hire available and qualified U.S. workers before they receive permission to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2B visa program. After ignoring applications from U.S. workers, Palmetto represented to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that it could not find qualified U.S. workers and obtained authorization to employ temporary visa workers.
“The Department of Justice will fight to ensure that U.S. workers are not denied jobs because an employer has a discriminatory preference for hiring temporary visa workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “I commend Palmetto for its cooperation with the Department’s investigation, and its agreement to engage in domestic recruitment efforts far surpassing the minimal recruiting requirements to participate in the H-2B visa worker program.”
Failing to consider or hire qualified U.S. workers based on their citizenship status violates the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), regardless of whether an employer has complied with other rules governing the use of temporary employment-based visa programs.
Under the settlement, Palmetto must engage in several types of enhanced recruiting and job advertising efforts to attract qualified U.S. workers, far beyond those required by the H-2B visa rules. Palmetto also must set aside $35,000 to pay any wages lost by U.S. workers whose applications it improperly rejected or ignored, pay $42,000 in civil penalties to the United States, and be subject to departmental monitoring.
Under the Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, the Civil Rights Division has opened dozens of investigations, filed one lawsuit, and reached settlement agreements with four employers. Since the Initiative’s inception, employers have agreed to pay or have distributed over $320,000 in back pay to affected U.S. workers. The Division has also increased its collaboration with other federal agencies, including a new formalized partnership with DOL to combat discrimination and abuse by employers using foreign visa workers.
The Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; and retaliation and intimidation.