A Silicon Valley electronics manufacturer has been ordered to pay over $161,000 in minimum wage and overtime pay and additional amount in damages to 18 Filipino computer engineers who were not paid according to labor standards when they were brought to work in the United States between 2012 and 2015.
The decision by the US Department of Labor came after an investigation revealed that some workers received as little as $1.66 per hour with overtime pay even as they routinely worked an average of 57 hours a week for Bitmicro Networks Inc. of Fremont, California. The tech firm brought the Filipino workers from July 21, 2012 to July 20, 2015 using B-1 visas, normally used when bringing workers into the United States to attend conferences or training.
The legal federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division discovered violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ordered the payment as investigation showed the workers were paid the same rates they earned in the Philippines. The workers were also reportedly paid in Philippine currency, according to SFGate.
While the workers were in the United States, Bitmicro put them up in a hotel, said Michael Eastwood, an assistant district director at the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.
“The way these vulnerable, low-wage workers were treated by this employer is illegal, unethical, and unacceptable,” said Susana Blanco, director of the Wage and Hour Division office in San Francisco.
“We will simply not tolerate employers bringing workers from Asia, or anywhere else, and failing to pay them every penny they have earned. We continue to see a pattern of U.S. companies misusing foreign worker visas by bringing them from overseas and paying them in pesos or rupees. The resolution of this case demonstrates the division’s commitment to identifying and rectifying these situations and to using every enforcement tool available to us to do so,” Blanco added.
Bitmicro, a publicly listed company which was founded in 1995, and manufactures flash storage systems, also illegally shipped goods created by these workers while they were not earning minimum wage in the U.S., according to the Labor Department. With headquarters in Fremont, the company also has a subsidiary in the Philippines.