Judge ruled recently that H-2B Workers can proceed with FLSA claims in a case pending in Federal Court in New York
Workers on H-2B visas who were recruited for a landscape services company by third-party recruiters, but not reimbursed for the recruitment, visa and transportation costs they incurred to accept employment, were allowed to proceed with their lawsuit for reimbursement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Landscape workers, brought into the United States by an independent recruiter used by the employer, a large landscaping company, claimed that the company failed to reimburse all workers’ travel expenses to get to and from the job as required with the employees’ wages. The employees also claimed that they had paid for the costs of obtaining an H-2B visa, traveling to the United States, and the services of a third-party recruitment firm, which the employer had retained.
The employees sued their employer under the FLSA, claiming that after deducting the costs of recruitment and travel from their earned wages, their net salary fell below minimum wage. The workers sued the employer collectively to recover recruitment costs, visa and transportation costs they incurred to accept employment, s well as liquidated damages.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York denied the employer’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and held instead that the FLSA requires employers to reimburse employees working on H-2B visas for certain expenses paid if, after subtracting the costs from the workers’ wages, the workers’ effective net salary would fall below minimum wage. Because the visa, travel, and recruitment expenses primarily benefited the employer, the court found that the employer was required to reimburse the workers for those costs when the costs brought the employees’ net pay below the minimum wage. Continue reading