Wednesday, February 4, 2009

On Retaining H-1Bs While Laying Off Qualified American Workers

In this Washington Technology article,

Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, makes a very good point regarding the effect of the economic downturn and the need for labor reductions as it pertains to the H-1B Visa program and especially Microsoft, as well as other high tech companies.

Quoting the article, “'It is imperative that in implementing its layoff plan, Microsoft ensures that American workers have priority in keeping their jobs over foreign workers on visa programs,' Grassley wrote Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer on Jan. 22.

“'The purpose of the H-1B program is to help companies hire foreign guest workers on a temporary basis when there is not a sufficient qualified American workforce to meet those needs,' Grassley said in a statement. 'However, the program is not intended to replace qualified American workers.'”

While I have had the great pleasure of working with a large number of mostly Indian colleagues working in the U.S. on H-1B visas, many of whom have become good friends, and whose work and ingenuity I deeply respect, I do have to agree that the economic downturn can not be used as an excuse to eliminate the jobs of QUALIFIED American workers while temporary guest workers remain on the payroll.

It seems to me that companies considering reductions in force for U.S.-based technology workers should be prepared to present evidence that the jobs being cut are not equivalent to jobs still being held by H-1B workers, and that the jobs of any remaining H-1B visa workers can not be adequately performed by QUALIFIED American workers, perhaps with some retraining, who would otherwise be laid off.

This post originally appeared in Your feedback is welcome.

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