Two H-1B Employers Sued for Mistreating Women

By David North on June 9, 2022

Two H-1B employers (though not described as such in the media) have been charged with mistreating their female workers.

One of them is a big software firm in the Bay Area and the other is a Chicago outfit called — wait for it — Immigration Lawyers PC. Its managing partner is listed variously on the website as Charles H. Cui and Cui Charles Hua. He is a member of the Illinois and Michigan bars and is under indictment for bribing a member of the Chicago Board of Aldermen, Edward M. Burke; the latter is a legendary leader of the local Democratic political machine, having been an alderman more than 52 years.

The California firm is Zendesk; on Myvisajobs, it is reported that the firm sought 41 H-1B workers in FY 2019, 54 the next year, 100 in FY 2021, and 57 in FY 2022. The law firm filed for three H-1B slots in 2020, one for a law clerk, the plaintiff in this case.

In the Zendesk case, four women have charged that they encountered discrimination as women in the work place in a number of ways. According to the San Jose Mercury News:

Zendesk paid female workers “significantly less” at hiring than their male counterparts, offered women less stock and fewer incentive-pay opportunities, and slotted women “overwhelmingly” into lower job levels, the suit claimed.

The four women, including one long-time employee, filed anonymously, an arrangement new to me, but understandable. The press did not notice that either of the employers used the H-1B program, but I think it worth noting; many H-1B employers have other faults as well.

The Chicago case, as reported by Law360, gives us an interesting view of the inner workings of an immigration law firm.

The plaintiff in this case, Natalia Curto, says she was hired as a paralegal and was promised a raise to $71,282 a year with overtime once she passed the bar. (She had previously practiced law in Argentina and Italy.) She did pass the bar, but said that she only got a raise from $20/hour to $25/hour, and never was paid overtime.

Her employer has replied that no such promise was made and that, anyway, professionals are not covered by the overtime provisions of the minimum wage laws. A review of the 2020 H-1B application filed for a law clerk by the firm in the Myvisajobs files shows a promised wage of about $41,000.

Curto complained that her boss gave her only Spanish-speaking clients (an implication of bias?) and screamed at her for not speaking English better. When she asked for a raise, it was denied and she was fired.

There is a hidden element to this story that is not mentioned in the press coverage or case files: What was her immigration status when she went to work on March 17, 2020? Her H-1B clearance did not come through until October 1 of that year. It would not be in the interest of either Curto or her ex-boss to raise that issue.

The Pacer file is numbered 1:22-cv-00369; the case is in the federal courts in the Northern District of Illinois.

The irony, in the Zendesk case, is that the H-1B employer strayed from a path unwittingly given to it by the U.S. government.

If Zendesk had wanted to hire an all-male workforce, all it had to do was to hire only through the H-1B program, which, since it recruits overseas, appears to be immune from gender discrimination and other employment bias charges. We have previously reported on H-1B employers who routinely discriminate in favor of not just Indians in general, but more precisely in favor of young Hindu males from the south of India, a practice that continues to this day.

Maybe those seeking economic justice for U.S. workers who lose jobs to cheaper, more docile H-1B workers should seek to ally themselves with the feminist movement. Both Zendesk and Immigration Lawyers PC are good examples of employers that treat women badly while simultaneously, and openly, using the H-1B program that is so hard on citizen workers of both sexes.