How Employers can Reduce Audit in PERM Filings for Roving, Telecommuting and Traveling Employees

The tech industry is facing many challenges today, notably denials from the Department of Labor (DOL) based on very little understanding of how the industry works. Most large employers in the sector are not the ‘job shops’ that USCIS fears; and DOL is convinced the tech industry is engaged in fraud of some kind, or is somehow interested in recruiting foreign workers when willing and able US workers are available!

US employers in this sector pay a premium in governmental application costs and legal fees because they are unable to find a suitable worker in the advertised job. In fact, most recruiters I speak to would prefer to hire locally rather than internationally.

Both USCIS and DOL target employers who file for an employee with job duties involving roving, telecommuting or travelling; USCIS has recently issued guidance on roving employees placed at client worksites, in the H-1b visa context. DOL continues to audit and issue denials for roving, travelling or telecommuting positions. Current audits require employers to define employees’ positions as either national or regional roving without a residential requirement, or roving with a residential requirement. Additionally, DOL has expressed concern that these jobs may not be bona fide opportunities for the positions advertised at the intended place of hire; and, in the case of roving employees with no fixed ‘intended area of employment’, the location chosen to advertise the job opportunity and the wage may be artificial and misrepresented by the employer.

Where to Advertise for Roving Employees

In the past few years, DOL has audited and denied applications where the residential address of the employee does not match the location of employment. DOL decided that this position was for a telecommuting employee, a benefit the employer did not disclose in the advertisement for the position and therefore not disclosed to an eligible US applicant, but offered to the beneficiary as a benefit. A PERM application can also be denied based on job advertisements in the incorrect Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employer advertised the job where the client worksites were located, instead of the MSA where the employer’s headquarters was located.

In Paradigm Infotech, Inc (BALCA, June, 2007), the employer advertised the roving position in Erie, Pennsylvania where the client worksite was located, instead of the company headquarters. To reach the PERM denial, DOL conducted research on the employer. DOL ascertained that the employer’s headquarters was in Columbia, Maryland as confirmed by employer’s tax records and DOL interviews with employees. DOL also performed site visits to the Erie location of the employer’s branch to ascertain that sufficient office space existed, and parking space was available for the number of employees who were supposed to work there, in accordance with employer’s documentation filed with Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). Based on short term contracts with client companies, inadequate office space at Erie, and payroll records that confirmed that employees worked at different locations, PERM labor certification was denied by DOL and the denial was upheld by BALCA. BALCA reasoned that the employer needed to test the labor market at the place where the alien was working, and since this was a roving employee and that geographical area of the labor market was unknown, the job market to be tested for PERM purposes was located at the employer’s headquarters.

Following Paradigm, employers with large business units away from company headquarters should also advertise at headquarters location. This is confirmed by the Barbara Farmers Memo: ETA Field Memorandum 48-94§10, published by DOL in 1994 and still followed by DOL.

Prevailing Wage Issues

Employers should also file to obtain prevailing wage determinations from DOL in all the intended areas of potential work sites for the foreign worker. Future locations can be determined from itineraries and statement of work signed with the end client.

Employers with International Locations

In August 2012, BALCA upheld that advertisements in the PERM context also include ‘travel requirements’. The employer in M-IL.L.C., filed a PERM for an employee who was required to travel to international locations as part of the job requirement. This fact was listed on the PERM application Form 9089 and the prevailing wage determination, but not listed on the advertisement for the job opening. 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(4) states, “Advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals before filing the Application for Permanent Employment Certification must… indicate the geographic area of employment with enough specificity to apprise applicants of any travel requirements and where applicants will likely have to reside to perform the job opportunity.” The employer’s advertisements did not include the travel requirement. Denial was based on the fact that travel requirements listed on the PERM application and the prevailing wage determination was not matched by the advertisement for the position.

Conclusion

While we cannot with certainty expect every PERM filing with travel requirements to be audited by DOL, we must certainly file like that is a very real possibility. Any filing with the DOL is subject to audit, even if in the past those very same requirements were certified by DOL. The safest course in our uncertain climate is to match information on the prevailing wage with the PERM form, and the employer’s advertisement requirements for the position advertised.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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