The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has announced that Semafor Technologies LLC in Norcross, Georgia, has agreed to pay 73 employees $741,288 in back wages following an investigation by the WHD.  The June 12, 2012, announcement is the result of an investigation that found the company failed to pay 54 foreign H-1B workers for periods of time during which they were nonproductive because the company did not assign any work and failed to reimburse five workers for various processing fees related to their employment.  Also, an additional 14 workers were neither reimbursed for processing fees nor paid for periods without assigned work.

H-1B regulations prevent employers from “benching” H-1B workers.  This means employers must continue to pay workers even if there is no work to be performed.  Employers also are prohibited from forcing employees to take leave without paying them their wages.  Employers are not responsible, however, for wages when employees take voluntary leave.  In addition, H-1B regulations generally make it a violation for employees to pay business expenses, which include fees associated with obtaining an H-1B visa.  Employers who violate either of these provisions will be subject to back wages and penalties, and can face debarment from the H-1B program altogether.  It is important that employers filing H-1B petitions be fully aware of and can comply with their obligations under the program.