Prince George's County Public Schools will pay over $4 million in back wages to over 1,000 workers after violations of the temporary foreign workers program were exposed.
Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor found that the school system illegally reduced the wages of H-1B workers by making them pay fees that the system was supposed to pay.
"Obviously, this is not the outcome we had hoped for as these employees have provided an exceptional service to our school district," stated the Prince George's Public Schools in a statement. "PGCPS did everything possible to retain these excellent and valued employees. However, in the final analysis of the current state of our shrinking school budget and mounting legal fees, we determined that we simply could not afford to continue to operate this program.
The visa program requires that employers pay several fees when enrolling workers, but the Department of Labor says that PGCPS was forcing the workers they hired to pay their own fees.
PGCPS will also pay a $100,000 penalty and will be banned from filing new petitions or requests for permanent residency status for foreign workers for two years. This action was taken because of what the DOL calls the willful nature of some violations.
The H-1B program allows employers to hire foreign workers in specific occupations to work temporarily in the United States. Workers are required to be paid at least the same wage as those paid to American workers.
"This decision is in the best interest of our school district and marks the end of a challenging chapter in our school district's efforts to meet the mandates of the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act. Now it is time for us to move forward and continue to place highly effective teachers in every classroom in order to provide our students with the necessary skills they need to be successful," the school system stated.