A lawsuit was recently filed against The St Regis Aspen Resort in Aspen, Colorado alleging exploitation of former employees in the J-1 visa program. According to the claim, employees were overworked and underpaid for menial duties, all while failing to provide the promised training program.
The J-1 visa program allows foreign-born students to obtain internship training and experience during their stay in the United States. During the academic year, students are permitted to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week), and during school breaks students are permitted to work full-time (at least 32 hours per week, not exceeding 40 hours per week). The claims alleged these employees were working anywhere from 48-70 hours per week. The J-1 visa holders allegedly filled in for the short-staffed roles while being paid significantly less than other temporary employees.
Under the J-1 Internship program, students are able to obtain real-life training experience in their field of study. Some categories include:
- Hospitality and tourism
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
- Business, finance, and management
- Public administration
- Social sciences
As the objective of the program is to complement the student’s studies, it is required that the labor is related to their objectives. This means that unskilled labor positions are not applicable. The lawsuit alleges this was not followed.
Protections for J-1 Students
J-1 visa holders are legally protected from exploitation and have rights available to them to ensure the best possible work experience. If these rights are violated, it is important to speak with an employment immigration lawyer to take proper action.
Sponsors and employers of J-1 visa holders are required to fill out and follow a DS-7002 Training/Internship plan, which outlines how employees will be trained in their field of study. Those who neglect this plan can be held legally responsible for their breach of duty.
Employees are also entitled to:
- Fair wage and overtime pay
- Fair hours
- A safe and healthy working environment
Any violations should be discussed with an employment immigration lawyer. In some cases, it may be possible to transfer job placements.
Claims against sponsors and employers may also be brought to the Department of State which can help secure refunded payments. The DOS may also enact sanctions and fines in response to violations.
Contact an Employment Immigration Lawyer
J-1 visa holders deserve to have healthy and informative working experience. Unfortunately, due to their vulnerable position ill-intent employers may try to capitalize on their labor.
Our team of employment immigration attorneys has a deep bench of experience handling J-1 and other related work-based visa programs. They will work with individuals on the initial visa application and any related needs that arise in the process.
Reeves Immigration Law Group has over four decades of experience serving our country’s immigrant communities and will do everything in our power to protect and advocate for these individuals in times of need.
To speak with an employment immigration lawyer on J-1 visa concerns or any other immigration matter, please fill out our contact form.