Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Pro Tip: Don't Threaten Employees With Deportation

As you are (hopefully) aware, federal law prohibits hiring undocumented workers. In addition, many state laws can punish employers for not complying with verification requirements. But many unscrupulous employers disregard these strictures and flip immigration law against their employees.

One company, which actually went through the legal process to hire an immigrant employee, allegedly turned around and forced the employee to pay his own salary, and threatened him with deportation if he didn't comply, violating federal human trafficking laws.

And you (hopefully) know enough to never, ever do that.

Threats and Tech

Fazlur Mahammad is claiming that Indian staffing firm Kellton Tech Solutions and its American subsidiary Prosoft Technology Group "regularly used the threats of deportation or visa revocation" if Mahammad didn't pay his own salary. The companies also allegedly forced Mahammad, who worked in San Jose and Illinois on an H-1B visa, to pay $2,000 in fees for the visa and other paperwork, despite federal laws requiring employers to pay those fees.

While the lawsuit doesn't name the specific companies to which Mahammad providing IT services, or an exact dollar figure of the total amount the staffing firms required him to pay, he does claim he made several payments under threat of deportation. The payments were usually $3,300 but included one for $10,000, and were made from his arrival in October 2015 until his termination in May 2018. After Mahammad was fired, according to the lawsuit, he was told to return to India immediately.

Tech Worker Trafficking

Mahammad's suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages for lost wages, along with compensation for the federal visa fees he paid, and includes claims of emotional distress and mental anguish. "California, especially the Bay Area, is and has been the breeding ground for visa fraud and the exploitation of workers both foreign and domestic," according to former whistleblower on visa fraud Jay Palmer.

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