Labor Department Zaps Newspaper for Abusing Its H-1B Workers

By David North, December 16, 2010

The U.S. Labor Department has penalized a newspaper for abusing the H-1B program in its own hiring practices.

The paper is the Asian Journal, headquartered in Los Angeles, which also prints editions in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and the Philippines. It was not only forced to make more than half a million dollars in payments to its own staff and to the government, it was tossed out of the H-1B program until July 30, 2011.

Given the wide extent of the violations, noted below, I was surprised that its suspension from the program was so brief.

Written for a Filipino-American audience, the Asian Journal, routinely and understandably devotes a substantial amount of space to immigration matters, but (unless my web search missed something) it did not report its own fall from grace.

Its rival, The Filipino Express, however, covered the story thoroughly.

This may be a first; I do not recall a media entity getting caught for violating the H-1B rules. Presumably most U.S. papers do not use the program, and if they did, would tend to do so carefully. I am from a newspaper family and do know that the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has, from time to time, caught newspapers violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, particularly regarding overtime provisions.

According to the August 2 DoL press release, the Asian Journal, was a multiple labor-law violator:

  • It "misrepresented facts on the Labor Condition Application filed with the [Department]." It had told would-be H-1B workers that they would be reporters, accountants, or financial analysts but put them to work selling space in the publication, a less prestigious and less attractive job.
  • It "required the workers to pay visa processing fees," which are high in this program; forcing the workers to pay such fees is against the law.
  • It failed to pay $473,218 in required wages to its H-1B workers, and was forced by DoL to make those payments in the announced settlement.
  • While the Wage and Hour investigators were on the site, they also found that the Asian Journal was underpaying ten non-H-1B workers, office staff and delivery drivers, denying them overtime for work beyond 40 hours. The department forced the paper to pay $43,276 in back wages to this group of workers.
  • The department also levied a civil money penalty of $40,000 on the paper.

In a nice touch, the department also issued the press release in Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines).

Disclosure: I used to be the assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Labor in charge of the Wage and Hour Division, and later studied the division's operations in California.