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National Restaurant Association - Labor Department postpones H-2B implementation date

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Labor Department postpones H-2B implementation date

The Labor Department announced Sept. 22 that it would delay the implementation date of a new rule that could dramatically increase wages for H-2B employees. The agency, which faces legal challenges from employers who use the H-2B visa program, moved the date back at least 60 days.


The National Restaurant Association this month opposes the agency’s controversial new methodology for calculating wage rates for H-2B employees. The new wage system was set to take effect Oct. 1, but has now been delayed until at least Dec. 1 while two federal lawsuits are pending.

The H-2B program allots 66,000 visas a year for U.S. businesses to fill temporary or seasonal positions with foreign workers when they can’t find domestic employees to fill the slots. Restaurants in resort areas are among the top users of the H-2B program.

The DOL regulation requires employers to pay H-2B employees and similarly employed U.S. workers a “wage the meets or exceeds the highest of the following: the prevailing wage, the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage or the local minimum wage.” Because of how the new regulation defines “prevailing wage,” employers could see wage rates for H-2B workers double or more.

Lawmakers with constituents who use the H-2B program are also stepping up their pressure on DOL to drop the new wage methodology. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is among the senators leading the fight to delay the H-2B wage rule. She estimates Maryland employers would shed at least 1,000 jobs if they were forced to pay the higher wages.

The DOL this spring also proposed other major changes in the rules governing the H-2B system. The National Restaurant Association filed extensive comments urging the DOL to withdraw its proposed changes because the new rules would make it nearly impossible for employers to use the program.

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