A Middlesex County staffing firm has agreed to pony up $345,000 to settle federal allegations that it underpaid highly-skilled foreign nationals who were brought to the U.S. to work under a special visa program currently under fire from the Trump Administration.
Edison-based Savantis Solutions didn’t admit or deny the Justice Department’s allegations, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito said.
Instead, it agreed to pay back wages and interest to current and former company employees who entered the United States on H-1B visas.
Although federal authorities didn’t specify their nationalities, more than half of the company’s H-1B workers reportedly come from India, where employers in the science, technology and engineering and fields do most of their recruiting.
New Jersey and New York have been right behind California and Texas in hiring specialty workers from outside the country over the past five years.
President Trump in June temporarily suspended any new H-1B visas until the end of this year because of the “unusual threat” to job opportunities for Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tech industry calls that a hardship, contending that the H-1B program compensates for a lack of qualified workers in the United States.
Corporate giants that include Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Netflix claim in court papers that suspending the visas will “stifle innovation, hinder growth, and ultimately harm U.S. workers, businesses, and the economy more broadly in irreparable ways.”
Critics, however, say the program allows companies to lure skilled foreign workers with entry-level salaries.
Savantis, which deals in consulting, technology and staffing, violated immigration and employment regulations when it didn’t pay workers brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas the required wage at regular intervals from January 2014 through June 2018, Carpenito said.
The company -- formerly known as Vedicsoft -- also improperly required that recruits pay security deposits before it submitted their H-1B lottery applications, he said.
Under its settlement with the federal government, the $345,365 in restitution paid by Savantis will help cover back wages plus interest to the affected employees and former employees of the company, Carpenito said.
Savantis “cooperated in the investigation of the matter and undertook compliance efforts in response” to the government’s complaint, he noted.
Savantis also must hire an outside law firm to serve as a rules and regulations compliance monitor for the next three years under the agreement, the U.S. attorney said.
Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General New York Region, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Homeland Security Investigations Newark Field Office, the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division’s Southern New Jersey District Office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Office of Fraud Detection and National Security's Vermont Service Center and Newark Field Office with the work leading to the settlement, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney David E. Dauenheimer, deputy chief of Carpenito’s Government Fraud Unit in Newark.
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