Wednesday, September 28, 2011

H-1B/H-2B/PERM: Prevailing Wage Determinations Backlog

Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs) are normally issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) in order to help employers ascertain their special "minimum wage" requirement in hiring certain foreign citizens. It is a required step in some cases (when hiring qualifying foreign citizens for permanent employment (PERM)), but only an optional one in others (for instance, when hiring qualifying foreign citizens for H-1B (specialty occupation) temporary employment).

Once upon a time, the process was quite decentralized: PWDs were normally issued by State Workforce Agencies until December 2009/January 2010. But here we are now... On August 11, 2011, the U.S.Department of Labor's (DOL) National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) announced that it was suspending its Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs) until at least October 2011, due to recent political and legal pressure from immigrant labor and other interest groups who complain that the wages of H-2B (seasonal or guest) workers are too low. DOL responded by overhauling the PWD process in order to increase H-2B wage requirements; its plan is to return H-2B determinations back to a 30 day processing time by mid-October 2011, then PERM determinations back to a 60 day processing time by November 2011. However, H-2B employers and related groups hit back a few days ago, suing DOL. (We're talking shrimp industry, forestry, outdoor amusement, hotel associations and others.) And DOL's response?--Another 60 day delay on the new H-2B rules!

Long story short: this is a mess! (A failed experiment in bureaucratic centralization?)

In the mean time, H-1B employers/employees should use the Online Wage Library (which was updated in July 2011) to determine their prevailing wage requirements (unless of course special circumstances require reliance on other sources).

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