Noncompliance with H2-B Visa program costs carnival company over $200K

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined that during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, carnival operators GoldStar Amusements Inc. and Lee’s Concessions Inc. failed to follow the provisions of the H-2B visa program by not paying prevailing wages, not paying inbound and outbound transportation costs, and failing to keep accurate payroll records. This month, a judge affirmed those findings and issued an decision in the carnival operators would pay $146,243 to 55 employees and another $63,584 in civil money penalties. 

What is the H-2B visa program? 

The H2-B visa program lets employers temporarily bring foreign, non-agricultural employees to the United States. It’s a highly debated program because sometimes, the workers work in poor conditions for low wages. Typically, workers stay for about 9 months, but it can be extended by the employer. This program is not like a green card. The visas are controlled by the employer. If a guestworker is fired or let go by the employer, they are instantly deportable.

Some civil rights groups refer to the program as close to slavery, because employers are allowed to pay lower wages to these guestworkers. Many guestworkers don’t want to complain for fear of being deported before the end of their contract because they are relying on money earned. Some guestworkers pay “headhunters” in their own country to get an H-2B visa opportunity, so if a contract ends early, they may be out 

Know the law 

 Wage and Hour District Director Kristin Tout in Minneapolis said, “Employers such as these are legally responsible for knowing and complying with federal wage laws.” H-2B employers must follow the specific terms under the program, which are clearly given to employers when they apply. The Department of Labor takes these violations very seriously. It’s important to know the guidelines for all workers to ensure compliance. 

Both employers and employees, regardless of where they are from, can get help with compliance of federal wage laws by calling the Department of Labor. The DOL has the capability to speak with people in over 200 languages. 

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