Main image of article Justice Department Hits IBM Over H-1B Hiring Practices

U.S. Visa

IBM reached a settlement with Department of Justice over allegations it discriminated against U.S. software and apps developers by favoring job applicants who held H-1B visas or foreign student visas, according to a statement by the Department of Justice on Friday. The Justice Department hit IBM for allegedly violating the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, when it posted online job openings for software and apps developers. In the job postings, IBM allegedly stated a preference for F-1 and H-1B visa holders. F-1 visas are issued to foreign students and H-1B visas to foreign nationals with technical experience in a specialized field. "Although IBM's job postings were for positions that would ultimately require the successful candidate to relocate overseas, the anti-discrimination provision of the INA does not permit employers to express or imply a preference for temporary visa holders over U.S. workers, such as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, for any employment opportunity in the United States," the Justice Department stated. Under the terms of the settlement with the Justice Department, IBM agreed to:

  • Pay $44,400 in civil penalties to the United States
  • Revise its hiring and recruiting procedures
  • Train its human resources personnel to ensure compliance with the Immigration and Nationality Act
  • Undergo reporting requirements for compliance for two years

"Employers must give all eligible candidates the equal opportunity to compete for employment," Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. "The department is committed to ensuring employers do not unlawfully discriminate against U.S. citizens and other work-authorized individuals based on their citizenship status." IBM was not immediately available to comment.

IBM Case Doesn't Help H-1B Reform Efforts

The IBM settlement comes at a time when the nation is locked in political debate over immigration reform, which has also drawn in legislative efforts to increase the statutory cap for H-1B visa petitions beyond their current 65,000 visas a year. Tech leaders fromFacebook to Google to Intel have called on Congress to raise the cap and streamline the green card process for foreign tech workers, as a way to address the shortage of finding qualified U.S. tech professionals to do the work and innovation that they say is needed. On the other side of the coin, organizations that support IT workers and some university professors question whether there is really a shortage of IT workers and whether raising the cap is warranted. To be sure, the debate on this topic can be intense. See our Special Report on H-1Bs Currently, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is languishing in the House of Representatives has the H-1B-related legislation hogtied, since it has been added to the broader reform bill, notes a recent post in TechCrunch. Whether and when movement will happen with the broader bill, and H-1B reform, has yet to be seen.