Unscrupulous employers sometimes take advantage of immigrant workers who come to South Carolina or other states on H-2 temporary foreign worker visas. Though the H-2 visa program allows immigrants to work legally in the United States, some employers threaten H-2 workers with deportation when they complain about poor working conditions.
A group of H-2 visa holders from Mexico filed a lawsuit against Backyard Lawn LLC, a landscaping company based in Mississippi, for failing to honor the terms of their employment contract or comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the workers, Backyard Lawn violated immigration laws by deducting fees for the H-2 sponsorship program from their paychecks. The H-2 visa program requires employers to reimburse workers that they sponsor for the cost of their travel and visa application.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say that they were told that they would be paid a standard wage of $11.36 per hour and an overtime wage of $17.04 per hour. When one of the workers complained to the landscape company owner and manager about not receiving overtime compensation, he was fired immediately. The owner and manager also threatened to report the plaintiff to immigration authorities and kick him out of the employee housing.
Workers with valid H-2 visas may want to talk to an attorney if they are not being compensated fairly by their employer. An attorney may be able to negotiate with the employer or help the worker to seek reimbursement for unpaid wages. If an individual is facing immigration problems after a disappointing H-2 employment visa experience, an attorney may be able to let them know about any options they might have to stay in the country.