20 CFR § 655.20 - Assurances and obligations of H-2B employers.

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§ 655.20 Assurances and obligations of H-2B employers.

An employer employing H-2B workers and/or workers in corresponding employment under an Application for Temporary Employment Certification has agreed as part of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification that it will abide by the following conditions with respect to its H-2B workers and any workers in corresponding employment:

(a) Rate of pay.

(1) The offered wage in the job order equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage or Federal minimum wage, State minimum wage, or local minimum wage. The employer must pay at least the offered wage, free and clear, during the entire period of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification granted by OFLC.

(2) The offered wage is not based on commissions, bonuses, or other incentives, including paying on a piece-rate basis, unless the employer guarantees a wage earned every workweek that equals or exceeds the offered wage.

(3) If the employer requires one or more minimum productivity standards of workers as a condition of job retention, the standards must be specified in the job order and the employer must demonstrate that they are normal and usual for non-H-2B employers for the same occupation in the area of intended employment.

(4) An employer that pays on a piece-rate basis must demonstrate that the piece rate is no less than the normal rate paid by non-H-2B employers to workers performing the same activity in the area of intended employment. The average hourly piece rate earnings must result in an amount at least equal to the offered wage. If the worker is paid on a piece rate basis and at the end of the workweek the piece rate does not result in average hourly piece rate earnings during the workweek at least equal to the amount the worker would have earned had the worker been paid at the offered hourly wage, then the employer must supplement the worker's pay at that time so that the worker's earnings are at least as much as the worker would have earned during the workweek if the worker had instead been paid at the offered hourly wage for each hour worked.

(b) Wages free and clear. The payment requirements for wages in this section will be satisfied by the timely payment of such wages to the worker either in cash or negotiable instrument payable at par. The payment must be made finally and unconditionally and “free and clear.” The principles applied in determining whether deductions are reasonable and payments are received free and clear and the permissibility of deductions for payments to third persons are explained in more detail in 29 CFR part 531.

(c) Deductions. The employer must make all deductions from the worker's paycheck required by law. The job order must specify all deductions not required by law which the employer will make from the worker's pay; any such deductions not disclosed in the job order are prohibited. The wage payment requirements of paragraph (b) of this section are not met where unauthorized deductions, rebates, or refunds reduce the wage payment made to the worker below the minimum amounts required by the offered wage or where the worker fails to receive such amounts free and clear because the worker “kicks back” directly or indirectly to the employer or to another person for the employer's benefit the whole or part of the wages delivered to the worker. Authorized deductions are limited to: Those required by law, such as taxes payable by workers that are required to be withheld by the employer and amounts due workers which the employer is required by court order to pay to another; deductions for the reasonable cost or fair value of board, lodging, and facilities furnished; and deductions of amounts which are authorized to be paid to third persons for the worker's account and benefit through his or her voluntary assignment or order or which are authorized by a collective bargaining agreement with bona fide representatives of workers which covers the employer. Deductions for amounts paid to third persons for the worker's account and benefit which are not so authorized or are contrary to law or from which the employer, agent or recruiter including any agents or employees of these entities, or any affiliated person derives any payment, rebate, commission, profit, or benefit directly or indirectly, may not be made if they reduce the actual wage paid to the worker below the offered wage indicated on the Application for Temporary Employment Certification.

(d) Job opportunity is full-time. The job opportunity is a full-time temporary position, consistent with § 655.5, and the employer must use a single workweek as its standard for computing wages due. An employee's workweek must be a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours - seven consecutive 24-hour periods. It need not coincide with the calendar week but may begin on any day and at any hour of the day.

(e) Job qualifications and requirements. Each job qualification and requirement must be listed in the job order and must be bona fide and consistent with the normal and accepted qualifications and requirements imposed by non-H-2B employers in the same occupation and area of intended employment. The employer's job qualifications and requirements imposed on U.S. workers must not be less favorable than the qualifications and requirements that the employer is imposing or will impose on H-2B workers. A qualification means a characteristic that is necessary to the individual's ability to perform the job in question. A requirement means a term or condition of employment which a worker is required to accept in order to obtain the job opportunity. The CO may require the employer to submit documentation to substantiate the appropriateness of any job qualification and/or requirement specified in the job order.

(f) Three-fourths guarantee.

(1) The employer must guarantee to offer the worker employment for a total number of work hours equal to at least three-fourths of the workdays in each 12-week period (each 6-week period if the period of employment covered by the job order is less than 120 days) beginning with the first workday after the arrival of the worker at the place of employment or the advertised first date of need, whichever is later, and ending on the expiration date specified in the job order or in its extensions, if any. See the exception in paragraph (y) of this section.

(2) For purposes of this paragraph (f) a workday means the number of hours in a workday as stated in the job order. The employer must offer a total number of hours of work to ensure the provision of sufficient work to reach the three-fourths guarantee in each 12-week period (each 6-week period if the period of employment covered by the job order is less than 120 days) during the work period specified in the job order, or during any modified job order period to which the worker and employer have mutually agreed and that has been approved by the CO.

(3) In the event the worker begins working later than the specified beginning date the guarantee period begins with the first workday after the arrival of the worker at the place of employment, and continues until the last day during which the job order and all extensions thereof are in effect.

(4) The 12-week periods (6-week periods if the period of employment covered by the job order is less than 120 days) to which the guarantee applies are based upon the workweek used by the employer for pay purposes. The first 12-week period (or 6-week period, as appropriate) also includes any partial workweek, if the first workday after the worker's arrival at the place of employment is not the beginning of the employer's workweek, with the guaranteed number of hours increased on a pro rata basis (thus, the first period may include up to 12 weeks and 6 days (or 6 weeks and 6 days, as appropriate)). The final 12-week period (or 6-week period, as appropriate) includes any time remaining after the last full 12-week period (or 6-week period) ends, and thus may be as short as 1 day, with the guaranteed number of hours decreased on a pro rata basis.

(5) Therefore, if, for example, a job order is for a 32-week period (a period greater than 120 days), during which the normal workdays and work hours for the workweek are specified as 5 days a week, 7 hours per day, the worker would have to be guaranteed employment for at least 315 hours in the first 12-week period (12 weeks × 35 hours/week = 420 hours × 75 percent = 315), at least 315 hours in the second 12-week period, and at least 210 hours (8 weeks × 35 hours/week = 280 hours × 75 percent = 210) in the final partial period. If the job order is for a 16-week period (less than 120 days), during which the normal workdays and work hours for the workweek are specified as 5 days a week, 7 hours per day, the worker would have to be guaranteed employment for at least 157.5 hours (6 weeks × 35 hours/week = 210 hours × 75 percent = 157.5) in the first 6-week period, at least 157.5 hours in the second 6-week period, and at least 105 hours (4 weeks × 35 hours/week = 140 hours × 75 percent = 105) in the final partial period.

(6) If the worker is paid on a piece rate basis, the employer must use the worker's average hourly piece rate earnings or the offered wage, whichever is higher, to calculate the amount due under the guarantee.

(7) A worker may be offered more than the specified hours of work on a single workday. For purposes of meeting the guarantee, however, the worker will not be required to work for more than the number of hours specified in the job order for a workday. The employer, however, may count all hours actually worked in calculating whether the guarantee has been met. If during any 12-week period (6-week period if the period of employment covered by the job order is less than 120 days) during the period of the job order the employer affords the U.S. or H-2B worker less employment than that required under paragraph (f)(1) of this section, the employer must pay such worker the amount the worker would have earned had the worker, in fact, worked for the guaranteed number of days. An employer has not met the work guarantee if the employer has merely offered work on three-fourths of the workdays in an 12-week period (or 6-week period, as appropriate) if each workday did not consist of a full number of hours of work time as specified in the job order.

(8) Any hours the worker fails to work, up to a maximum of the number of hours specified in the job order for a workday, when the worker has been offered an opportunity to work in accordance with paragraph (f)(1) of this section, and all hours of work actually performed (including voluntary work over 8 hours in a workday), may be counted by the employer in calculating whether each 12-week period (or 6-week period, as appropriate) of guaranteed employment has been met. An employer seeking to calculate whether the guaranteed number of hours has been met must maintain the payroll records in accordance with this part.

(g) Impossibility of fulfillment. If, before the expiration date specified in the job order, the services of the worker are no longer required for reasons beyond the control of the employer due to fire, weather, or other Act of God, or similar unforeseeable man-made catastrophic event (such as an oil spill or controlled flooding) that is wholly outside the employer's control that makes the fulfillment of the job order impossible, the employer may terminate the job order with the approval of the CO. In the event of such termination of a job order, the employer must fulfill a three-fourths guarantee, as described in paragraph (f) of this section, for the time that has elapsed from the start date listed in the job order or the first workday after the arrival of the worker at the place of employment, whichever is later, to the time of its termination. The employer must make efforts to transfer the H-2B worker or worker in corresponding employment to other comparable employment acceptable to the worker and consistent with the INA, as applicable. If a transfer is not effected, the employer must return the worker, at the employer's expense, to the place from which the worker (disregarding intervening employment) came to work for the employer, or transport the worker to the worker's next certified H-2B employer, whichever the worker prefers.

(h) Frequency of pay. The employer must state in the job order the frequency with which the worker will be paid, which must be at least every 2 weeks or according to the prevailing practice in the area of intended employment, whichever is more frequent. Employers must pay wages when due.

(i) Earnings statements.

(1) The employer must keep accurate and adequate records with respect to the workers' earnings, including but not limited to: Records showing the nature, amount and location(s) of the work performed; the number of hours of work offered each day by the employer (broken out by hours offered both in accordance with and over and above the three-fourths guarantee in paragraph (f) of this section); the hours actually worked each day by the worker; if the number of hours worked by the worker is less than the number of hours offered, the reason(s) the worker did not work; the time the worker began and ended each workday; the rate of pay (both piece rate and hourly, if applicable); the worker's earnings per pay period; the worker's home address; and the amount of and reasons for any and all deductions taken from or additions made to the worker's wages.

(2) The employer must furnish to the worker on or before each payday in one or more written statements the following information:

(i) The worker's total earnings for each workweek in the pay period;

(ii) The worker's hourly rate and/or piece rate of pay;

(iii) For each workweek in the pay period the hours of employment offered to the worker (showing offers in accordance with the three-fourths guarantee as determined in paragraph (f) of this section, separate from any hours offered over and above the guarantee);

(iv) For each workweek in the pay period the hours actually worked by the worker;

(v) An itemization of all deductions made from or additions made to the worker's wages;

(vi) If piece rates are used, the units produced daily;

(vii) The beginning and ending dates of the pay period; and

(viii) The employer's name, address and FEIN.

(j) Transportation and visa fees. (1)(i) Transportation to the place of employment. The employer must provide or reimburse the worker for transportation and subsistence from the place from which the worker has come to work for the employer, whether in the U.S. or abroad, to the place of employment if the worker completes 50 percent of the period of employment covered by the job order (not counting any extensions). The employer may arrange and pay for the transportation and subsistence directly, advance at a minimum the most economical and reasonable common carrier cost of the transportation and subsistence to the worker before the worker's departure, or pay the worker for the reasonable costs incurred by the worker. When it is the prevailing practice of non-H-2B employers in the occupation in the area to do so or when the employer extends such benefits to similarly situated H-2B workers, the employer must advance the required transportation and subsistence costs (or otherwise provide them) to workers in corresponding employment who are traveling to the employer's worksite. The amount of the transportation payment must be no less (and is not required to be more) than the most economical and reasonable common carrier transportation charges for the distances involved. The amount of the daily subsistence must be at least the amount permitted in § 655.173. Where the employer will reimburse the reasonable costs incurred by the worker, it must keep accurate and adequate records of: The costs of transportation and subsistence incurred by the worker; the amount reimbursed; and the date(s) of reimbursement. Note that the FLSA applies independently of the H-2B requirements and imposes obligations on employers regarding payment of wages.

(ii) Transportation from the place of employment. If the worker completes the period of employment covered by the job order (not counting any extensions), or if the worker is dismissed from employment for any reason by the employer before the end of the period, and the worker has no immediate subsequent H-2B employment, the employer must provide or pay at the time of departure for the worker's cost of return transportation and daily subsistence from the place of employment to the place from which the worker, disregarding intervening employment, departed to work for the employer. If the worker has contracted with a subsequent employer that has not agreed in the job order to provide or pay for the worker's transportation from the employer's worksite to such subsequent employer's worksite, the employer must provide or pay for that transportation and subsistence. If the worker has contracted with a subsequent employer that has agreed in the job order to provide or pay for the worker's transportation from the employer's worksite to such subsequent employer's worksite, the subsequent employer must provide or pay for such expenses.

(iii) Employer-provided transportation. All employer-provided transportation must comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local laws and regulations and must provide, at a minimum, the same vehicle safety standards, driver licensure requirements, and vehicle insurance as required under 49 CFR parts 390, 393, and 396.

(iv) Disclosure. All transportation and subsistence costs that the employer will pay must be disclosed in the job order.

(2) The employer must pay or reimburse the worker in the first workweek for all visa, visa processing, border crossing, and other related fees (including those mandated by the government) incurred by the H-2B worker, but not for passport expenses or other charges primarily for the benefit of the worker.

(k) Employer-provided items. The employer must provide to the worker, without charge or deposit charge, all tools, supplies, and equipment required to perform the duties assigned.

(l) Disclosure of job order. The employer must provide to an H-2B worker outside of the U.S. no later than the time at which the worker applies for the visa, or to a worker in corresponding employment no later than on the day work commences, a copy of the job order including any subsequent approved modifications. For an H-2B worker changing employment from an H-2B employer to a subsequent H-2B employer, the copy must be provided no later than the time an offer of employment is made by the subsequent H-2B employer. The disclosure of all documents required by this paragraph (l) must be provided in a language understood by the worker, as necessary or reasonable.

(m) Notice of worker rights. The employer must post and maintain in a conspicuous location at the place of employment a poster provided by the Department of Labor that sets out the rights and protections for H-2B workers and workers in corresponding employment. The employer must post the poster in English. To the extent necessary, the employer must request and post additional posters, as made available by the Department of Labor, in any language common to a significant portion of the workers if they are not fluent in English.

(n) No unfair treatment. The employer has not and will not intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge or in any manner discriminate against, and has not and will not cause any person to intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge, or in any manner discriminate against, any person who has:

(1) Filed a complaint under or related to 8 U.S.C. 1184(c), section 214(c) of the INA, 29 CFR part 503, or this subpart, or any other regulation promulgated thereunder;

(2) Instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to 8 U.S.C. 1184(c), section 214(c) of the INA, 29 CFR part 503, or this subpart or any other regulation promulgated thereunder;

(3) Testified or is about to testify in any proceeding under or related to 8 U.S.C. 1184(c), section 214(c) of the INA, 29 CFR part 503, or this subpart or any other regulation promulgated thereunder;

(4) Consulted with a workers' center, community organization, labor union, legal assistance program, or an attorney on matters related to 8 U.S.C. 1184(c), section 214(c) of the INA, 29 CFR part 503, or this subpart or any other regulation promulgated thereunder; or

(5) Exercised or asserted on behalf of himself/herself or others any right or protection afforded by 8 U.S.C. 1184(c), section 214(c) of the INA, 29 CFR part 503, or this subpart or any other regulation promulgated thereunder.

(o) Comply with the prohibitions against employees paying fees. The employer and its attorney, agents, or employees have not sought or received payment of any kind from the worker for any activity related to obtaining H-2B labor certification or employment, including payment of the employer's attorney or agent fees, application and H-2B Petition fees, recruitment costs, or any fees attributed to obtaining the approved Application for Temporary Employment Certification. For purposes of this paragraph (o), payment includes, but is not limited to, monetary payments, wage concessions (including deductions from wages, salary, or benefits), kickbacks, bribes, tributes, in-kind payments, and free labor. All wages must be paid free and clear. This provision does not prohibit employers or their agents from receiving reimbursement for costs that are the responsibility and primarily for the benefit of the worker, such as government-required passport fees.

(p) Contracts with third parties to comply with prohibitions. The employer must contractually prohibit in writing any agent or recruiter (or any agent or employee of such agent or recruiter) whom the employer engages, either directly or indirectly, in recruitment of H-2B workers to seek or receive payments or other compensation from prospective workers. The contract must include the following statement: “Under this agreement, [name of agent, recruiter] and any agent of or employee of [name of agent or recruiter] are prohibited from seeking or receiving payments from any prospective employee of [employer name] at any time, including before or after the worker obtains employment. Payments include but are not limited to, any direct or indirect fees paid by such employees for recruitment, job placement, processing, maintenance, attorneys' fees, agent fees, application fees, or petition fees.”

(q) Prohibition against preferential treatment of foreign workers. The employer's job offer must offer to U.S. workers no less than the same benefits, wages, and working conditions that the employer is offering, intends to offer, or will provide to H-2B workers. Job offers may not impose on U.S. workers any restrictions or obligations that will not be imposed on the employer's H-2B workers. This does not relieve the employer from providing to H-2B workers at least the minimum benefits, wages, and working conditions which must be offered to U.S. workers consistent with this section.

(r) Non-discriminatory hiring practices. The job opportunity is, and through the period set forth in paragraph (t) of this section must continue to be, open to any qualified U.S. worker regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, or citizenship. Rejections of any U.S. workers who applied or apply for the job must only be for lawful, job-related reasons, and those not rejected on this basis have been or will be hired. In addition, the employer has and will continue to retain records of all hired workers and rejected applicants as required by § 655.56.

(s) Recruitment requirements. The employer must conduct all required recruitment activities, including any additional employer-conducted recruitment activities as directed by the CO, and as specified in §§ 655.40 through 655.46.

(t) Continuing requirement to hire U.S. workers. The employer has and will continue to cooperate with the SWA by accepting referrals of all qualified U.S. workers who apply (or on whose behalf a job application is made) for the job opportunity, and must provide employment to any qualified U.S. worker who applies to the employer for the job opportunity, until 21 days before the date of need.

(u) No strike or lockout. There is no strike or lockout at any of the employer's worksites within the area of intended employment for which the employer is requesting H-2B certification at the time the Application for Temporary Employment Certification is filed.

(v) No recent or future layoffs. The employer has not laid off and will not lay off any similarly employed U.S. worker in the occupation that is the subject of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification in the area of intended employment within the period beginning 120 calendar days before the date of need through the end of the period of certification. A layoff for lawful, job-related reasons such as lack of work or the end of a season is permissible if all H-2B workers are laid off before any U.S. worker in corresponding employment.

(w) Contact with former U.S. employees. The employer will contact (by mail or other effective means) its former U.S. workers, including those who have been laid off within 120 calendar days before the date of need (except those who were dismissed for cause or who abandoned the worksite), employed by the employer in the occupation at the place of employment during the previous year, disclose the terms of the job order, and solicit their return to the job.

(x) Area of intended employment and job opportunity. The employer must not place any H-2B workers employed under the approved Application for Temporary Employment Certification outside the area of intended employment or in a job opportunity not listed on the approved Application for Temporary Employment Certification unless the employer has obtained a new approved Application for Temporary Employment Certification.

(y) Abandonment/termination of employment. Upon the separation from employment of worker(s) employed under the Application for Temporary Employment Certification or workers in corresponding employment, if such separation occurs before the end date of the employment specified in the Application for Temporary Employment Certification, the employer must notify OFLC in writing of the separation from employment not later than 2 work days after such separation is discovered by the employer. In addition, the employer must notify DHS in writing (or any other method specified by the Department of Labor or DHS in the Federal Register or the Code of Federal Regulations) of such separation of an H-2B worker. An abandonment or abscondment is deemed to begin after a worker fails to report for work at the regularly scheduled time for 5 consecutive working days without the consent of the employer. If the separation is due to the voluntary abandonment of employment by the H-2B worker or worker in corresponding employment, and the employer provides appropriate notification specified under this paragraph (y), the employer will not be responsible for providing or paying for the subsequent transportation and subsistence expenses of that worker under this section, and that worker is not entitled to the three-fourths guarantee described in paragraph (f) of this section. The employer's obligation to guarantee three-fourths of the work described in paragraph (f) ends with the last full 12-week period (or 6-week period, as appropriate) preceding the worker's voluntary abandonment or termination for cause.

(z) Compliance with applicable laws. During the period of employment specified on the Application for Temporary Employment Certification, the employer must comply with all applicable Federal, State and local employment-related laws and regulations, including health and safety laws. This includes compliance with 18 U.S.C. 1592(a), with respect to prohibitions against employers, the employer's agents or their attorneys knowingly holding, destroying or confiscating workers' passports, visas, or other immigration documents.

(aa) Disclosure of foreign worker recruitment. The employer, and its attorney or agent, as applicable, must comply with § 655.9 by providing a copy of all agreements with any agent or recruiter whom it engages or plans to engage in the recruitment of H-2B workers, and the identity and location of the persons or entities hired by or working for the agent or recruiter and any of the agents or employees of those persons and entities, to recruit foreign workers. Pursuant to § 655.15(a), the agreements and information must be filed with the Application for Temporary Employment Certification.

(bb) Cooperation with investigators. The employer must cooperate with any employee of the Secretary who is exercising or attempting to exercise the Department's authority pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1184(c)(14)(B), section 214(c)(14)(B) of the INA.