One aspect of the H-1B work visa program that I frequently emphasize — yes, yes, that I harp on — is that a core issue of H-1B is age. Younger workers are cheaper, and the vast majority of H-1Bs are young.
Concomitant with that is that the few Americans that U.S. employers do deign to hire as programmers tend to be new or recent grads. (Note: See Hal Salzman’s research for justification of my word few here.) Intel even has acronyms NCG (new college graduate) and RCG (recent CG), and earmarks jobs accordingly. This is common among the large employers, and I’ve pointed in the past to specific job ads like this for Intel, Facebook and so on.This discriminatory practice is of questionable legality, according to a prominent employment lawyer I asked a few years ago, but no one has ever challenged it.
Yesterday an alert reader came across an HP job ad that is not only is explicitly excusionary toward older American workers, but is also apparently exclusionary toward Americans, period. The position is for an Associate Software Engineer (odd title, more on this below) in Roseville, CA, a major HP site, near Sacramento. Here’s what it says.
First, it states that only NCGs/RCGS need apply:
Must be a recent graduate (2015) or graduating by January 2016.
Second, it has the following odd requirement (emphasis added):
Good written and verbal communication skills; mastery in English and local language.
My reader joked, “Hey, does Roseville have a local dialect of English?”
Of course, it’s clear what is likely happening here: HP has a foreign student that they want to hire, for a job requiring some foreign language, and they want to justify sponsoring the student for a green card, hence the language requirement.
Some of you will say, “But this is a legitimate use of the H-1B/green card programs. They need to hire a foreign worker, because they need the foreign language.” Well, you’re wrong. There are many programmers, born abroad but now naturalized U.S. citizens who almost certainly could do that job. Their only problem is that they’re not cheap, which brings me to the issue of that job title.
“Associate” Software Engineer? Are you kidding me, HP? This is NOT a standard job title, and it is reminiscent of the Junior Programmer titled used by the Indian IT services firms. It is clearly a device to set a lowball salary.It is also an additional mechanism to exclude the older Americans, who would be rejected as “overqualified.”
As I’ve often mentioned, the age issue could be easily fixed. Congress merely would replace the four-tiered system for determining prevailing wage, the legal wage floor for H-1B/green cards, by a single level, not broken down by age/experience.
Once again, what is sadly overlooked in the recent cases in which H-1Bs were used to replace American workers at Disney and SCE is that the foreign workers were cheap due to their AGE, or more precisely speaking, their low level of experience, which qualified them for the lowest of the four wage tiers.
The bills introduced in the past by Senators Grassley and Durbin would have changed the current four-level structure to a single level, in which prevailing wage would be defined as the 50th percentile salary for the given occupation and the given region — and NOT for a given experience level. DPE, and more recently EPI, have even suggested using the 75th percentile, on the grounds that the industry claims the H-1Bs are “the best and the brightest” or have rare skills, something employers would have to pay more for on the open market. In this light, I strongly recommend Daniel Costa’s recent op-ed (though I disagree with his focus on the IT services firms).