Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are tech firms faking job ads to avoid hiring U.S. workers?

September 24, 2008
Companies like Hewlett Packard, Cisco, and others are being accused of skirting federal laws to hire foreign workers while laying off American geeks. Cringely labors to uncover the truth.

TAGS: Come Hell or HP

Ask the Programmers Guild that question, and their answer would be an emphatic "yes!" The New Jersey-based organization has accused Hewlett Packard of advertising for jobs it has no intention of filling -- at least with US citizens -- on the Idaho Department of Labor Web site.

Federal regulations require U.S. corporations that wish to request a green card for a foreign worker to demonstrate that no qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the job. So, the argument goes, HP is allegedly posting fake jobs online and in newspapers to fulfill the requirements of Uncle Sam's Program Electronic Review Management process. Resumes come in, Americans get winnowed out, and the PERM job goes to Enrique or Sanjay or Vladimir.

The key bit of evidence: Job applications are directed not to HP's normal human resources department but to one of its immigration specialists.

A Hewlett Packard spokesperson responded thusly:

The programmer's guild website and press release on HP is inaccurate and misleading. The job notices that were on the Idaho state job bank last week appeared in error. We are working with the Idaho Department of Labor to assure such errors do not occur in the future. HP has no plans to substitute American workers with foreign nationals for these roles.

HP is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against any workers, but always seeks to hire the best and the brightest and that includes a small percentage (2-3%) of foreign nationals.

Blogger (and recently downsized HP engineer) Clayton Cramer notes that HP said those Idaho job postings were a mistake and would be taken down. Curiously, he adds, very similar ads for job at HP appeared on the site a few days later.

Programmers Guild president Kim Berry says companies prefer H-1B workers because foreign workers' options are limited: They aren't allowed to change jobs for several years, they may be forced to work overtime without pay, and they're less likely to question management decisions. "It's a form of indentured servitude," he says.

The Guild isn't the only group squawking about this. Blogger James Fulford has accused HP of laying off older Americans and then posting ads for jobs that are pretty much identical to the ones they just "eliminated." The motive: to replace older, better paid employees with younger, cheaper PERM employees.

Meanwhile, HP recently announced it's slashing 24,600 employees as a result of its merger with EDS, half of them employed in the States. According to, "HP said it plans to replace about half those jobs with new positions performing other functions."

It will be interesting to see how they define "other functions."

Of course, HP is hardly the only company suspected of doing this. Cisco has been accused of running similarly bogus ads. Last year, the Guild posted a YouTube video showing Pittsburgh law firm Cohen & Grisgsby giving a tutorial on how to skirt the legal requirements to hire H-1B workers that created a small firestorm on the Net and even woke up two members of Congress. (They resumed their nap shortly thereafter.)

Is this illegal? Technically not, says Berry. "But the companies are supposed to make a good faith effort to hire Americans. It's not good faith if they're getting resumes from highly qualified candidates and looking for reasons not to hire them."

Finally, frequent Cringe contributor J. H. shares this viral video, titled "Developers Are in Pain." It doesn't have anything to do with immigration or H-1B visas, but it's pretty damned funny -- and very true.

Have you been PERMed out of a job? Post your tale or woe (or resume) below or email it to at cringe (at) infoworld (dot) com. We'll get back to you...after we've interviewed Enrique, Sanjay, and Vlad.

Posted by Robert X. Cringely on September 24, 2008 03:00 AM

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