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Wage Obligations Of H-1B Employers
July 11, 2011

It is a legal requirement that employers pay their H-1B employees wages equal to or higher than the “prevailing wage.” This prevailing wage is the wage determined by the State Workforce Agency for a specific geographical location of employment. The easiest way to get this is from the online wage library at www.flcdatacenter.com. Another method is to ask the State Workforce Agency for the prevailing wage by giving the job title, job duties, education/experience requirements, etc. Each state has its own format for this. Some states want this to be faxed, while some others accept the requests on line. The third option is to use wage surveys published in the preceding two years. The employer can also use a union contract negotiated by a bargaining representative. Yet another option is for the employer to have a custom wage survey commissioned.  The last option is obviously the most time-consuming.
 
The offered wages or salary can be equal to or higher than the prevailing wage. The employer should keep in their files documentary evidence supporting the wages offered. This is easier if there is an official “wage scale” either as an official policy of the employer, or as part of a collective bargaining agreement. The factors that usually determine wage levels are job duties and job requirements (educational qualifications/ experience and specialized knowledge). Though this information need not be submitted as part of the H1B Petition requirements, the Department of Labor can ask for this at any time.
 
The H-1B employee should be paid the salary specified in the H-1B petition, no matter whether the employee is actually working or “on the bench”. There is no such thing as bench time without pay.   That is, even if the Employer does not have a “project” for the employee, he/she has to be paid. Of course, a person need not be paid if he/she is on unpaid vacation.  But there should be documentary evidence of such unpaid vacation. An H-1B employee can report wage violations to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or to the Department of Labor.  Evidence of such reporting will be given weight in the absence of latest pay stubs that are needed when an employee attempts to transfer to another employer or filing for any change of visa status.
 
The employer can fire the employee any time. But all contractual obligations should be complied with.

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