Issue Date: 10 March 2005
In the Matter of
ADMINISTRATOR, WAGE AND HOUR DIVISION
PEGASUS CONSULTING GROUP, INC.
Roy D. Ruggiero, Esq.
Susan B. Jacobs, Esq.
For Prosecuting Party
Janice K. Bullard
Administrative Law Judge
DECISION AND ORDER
This is a proceeding pursuant to 20 C.F.R. Part § 655, et seq., promulgated to implement
the H-1B provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act, hereinafter), 8 U.S.C. §§
1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(B) and 1182(n), and in accordance with 29 C.F.R. Part 18 (the Rules of
Practice and Procedure of the Office of Administrative Law Judges).
Under the Act, an employer may hire nonimmigrant workers from other countries to
work in the United States in specialty occupations for prescribed periods of time. 8 U.S.C. §
1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(B). Such workers are issued H-1B visas by the Department of State upon
approval by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). 20 C.F.R. § 655.705(b). In
order for the H-1B visa to be issued, the employer must file a Labor Condition Application
(LCA) with the Department of Labor (DOL), and describe the wage rate and working
conditions for the prospective employee. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n)(1)(D); 20 C.F.R. §§ 655.731 and
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732. Once DOL certifies the LCA, INS can then approve the nonimmigrants H-1B visa
petition. 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b); 20 C.F.R. §§ 655.700 (a)(3).
On February 4, 2004, the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division
(Administrator, hereinafter) issued a Notice and Determination that Pegasus Consulting Group,
Inc., (Respondent, hereinafter) had failed to pay employee Rajnarayanan Krishnamoorthy in
accordance with the H-1B visa program. The Administrator also sought civil money penalties.
On February 16, 2004, Respondent filed a timely request for a hearing before the Office of
Administrative Law Judges for the U.S. Department of Labor (OALJ). The case was assigned
to me and pursuant to my Notice of Hearing issued February 25, 2004, I scheduled a hearing in
the matter for March 22, 2004. Respondent requested a continuance because a material witness
was out of the country, and eventually, the matter was rescheduled and a hearing was held on
August 10 and 11, 2004. At the hearing, I admitted to the record a joint exhibit identified as
ALJX 1; 21 Exhibits submitted by the Prosecuting Party (the Administrator hereinafter),
identified at AX 1 through AX 21; and 14 Exhibits submitted by the Respondent, identified as
EX 1 through 14. Briefs were filed by the parties on February 1, 2005.1 The Administrator
subsequently asked leave to file a reply brief, but I herewith deny that request.
At the hearing, extensive discussion was held regarding the probative value of certain
evidence, most pointedly, that involving a prior investigation of Respondent conducted by the
Administrator. A hearing on the Administrators findings was held, and a Decision and Order
was issued on November 13, 2002 by Administrative Law Judge Ralph A. Romano. I admitted
the evidence regarding that investigation and its disposition for very limited purposes, and I find
little probative value in the Decision and Order that on its face would suggest that I am bound by
the disposition in that case. Moreover, although I may be persuaded by Judge Romanos
conclusions, they are not binding on my findings in the instant matter before me, and I find no
reason to go beyond the evidence presented relative to the specific charge underlying the instant
matter that would support review of the record in the matter before Judge Romano.
Respondents exhibit EX 11, which is a transcript of a conversation between two
individuals, one of whom is Respondents President, has little probative value, and although
admitted, has been given limited weight.
THE PARTIES CONTENTIONS
Administrator contends that Respondent willfully failed to pay required wages to an
employee that it had hired under the H-1B program, Rajnarayanan Krishnamoorthy.
Administrator asserts that Respondent did not pay the wage required under its LCA when Mr.
Krishnamoorthy worked on projects for the company, and also did not pay him when he was in
nonproductive status. Administrator further argues that civil money penalties are appropriate.
The filing of briefs was delayed because I allowed additional time for Respondent to attempt to secure information
from the Immigration and Naturalization Service through a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C.
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Respondent contends that it complied with all requirements of the H-1B program, and
moreover asserts that its employment relationship with Mr. Krishnamoorthy had been
terminated, thereby eliminating the requirement to pay him. In addition, Respondent argues that
the Department of Labor lacks authority to determine whether a bona fide termination of the
employment relationship has been effected. Respondent also argues that civil money penalties
The issues presented for adjudication are:
(1) Whether Respondent violated the Act by failing to pay wages to Rajnarayanan
Krishnamoorthy during a period identified in his LCA for employment with
(2) If so, what is the appropriate remedy.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Summary of H-1B Process
Pursuant to the Act and its implementing regulations, certain classes of aliens who are not
considered immigrants may work in the United States for prescribed periods of time and
prescribed purposes. 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15). One class of such aliens, known as H-1B
workers are issued specific visas to work on a temporary basis in specialty occupations. 8
U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H); 20 C.F.R. § 655.700(c)(1). A specialty occupation is one that
requires theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a
bachelors degree or higher in the specialty. 8 U.S.C. § 1184(i); 20 C.F.R. § 655.715. Visas
issued to such workers are limited to a six-year period of admission and are restricted in number
in any fiscal year. 8 U.S.C. § 1184(g).
INS identifies and defines the occupations covered by the H-1B category and determines
an individuals qualifications. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces
the labor conditions applications (LCA) relating to the aliens employment. 20 C.F.R. §
655.705. Employers who seek to hire individuals under an H-1B visa must first file a LCA with
DOL, and certification of the application is required before INS approves the visa petition. 8
U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b); see also 20 C.F.R. Part 655, Subparts H and I. In the LCA, the
employer must represent the number of employees to be hired, their occupational classification,
the actual or required wage rate, the prevailing wage rate and the source of such wage data, the
period of employment and the date of need. 20 C.F.R. §§ 655.730 -734; 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n).
After the LCA is certified, the employer submits a copy of the certified LCA to the INS
along with the nonimmigrant aliens visa petition to request H-1B classification for the worker.
20 C.F.R. § 655.700. If the visa is approved, the employer may hire the H-1B worker.
Employers are required to pay H-1B workers beginning on the date when the nonimmigrant first
is admitted to the United States pursuant to the LCA. 20 C.F.R. § 655.731(c)(6). Employers are
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required to pay H-1B employees the required wage for both productive and nonproductive time.
Employment-related nonproductive time, or benching, results from lack of available work or
lack of the individuals license or permit. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n)(2)(c)(vii); 20 C.F.R. §
655.731(c)(7)(i). The employers duty to pay the required wage ends when a bona fide
termination occurs, but if the employer rehires the laid off employee, a bona fide termination is
not established. 20 C.F.R. § 655.731(c). An employer need not pay wages for H-1B visa
workers in nonproductive status at their voluntary request or convenience. Id. The employer
must notify the INS that is has terminated the employment relationship so that the INS may
revoke approval of the H-1B visa. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(11). Employers must notify INS that the
employment relationship has been terminated so that the visa petition may be canceled. 20
C.F.R. § 655.731(7)(ii); 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(11); 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(4)(iii)(E).
Summary of the Evidence
The following summary of the testimony of the witnesses who appeared at the hearing
emphasizes those facts that I consider most probative and relevant to my findings. However, in
reaching my findings of fact and conclusions of law, I have carefully considered all of the
testimony of all of the witness, taking into account all relevant and probative evidence. I have
evaluated the testimonial evidence by assessing its inherent consistency and consistency with
other evidence of record. I have also made assessments of the credibility of the witnesses,
considering the source of information, its reasonableness, its consistency with other evidence,
and the demeanor and behavior of the witnesses.
Mr. Krishnamoorthy is a software consultant who in 1997 responded to a newspaper
advertisement placed by Respondent for workers with his particular skills. Tr. at 31. He was
hired by Respondent and began training in its office in India on January 5, 1998. Tr. at 32. He
was required to pay a deposit of the equivalent of $5,000.00 to Respondent, which he expected to
be repaid after he joined Respondents project in the United States. Id. After training with
Respondent, Mr. Krishnamoorthy went to the United States in October, 1998, and traveled to
Boston with three colleagues. Tr. at 34. His first assignment was in New Hampshire, working
on a project that Mr. Krishnamoorthy called the Auto Desk Project. Id. He worked on that
project until the end of February, 1999, at pay based on $60,000.00 per year. Tr. at 35. Mr.
Krishnamoorthy was not assigned to another project, and continued to be paid through April,
1999. Tr. at 36. He received no wage payments in May, 1999, but noted that a deposit for the
pay period covering May 1 through May 15, 1999 had been made to his bank account and then
debited. Tr. at 37, 38. Mr. Krishnamoorthy was paid every two weeks. Tr. at 111.
Towards the end of May, 1999, Mr. Krishnamoorthy was called by Mr. Sam Zaharis2,
who offered him the option of staying in the States with no additional pay, or returning to India
at Respondents expense. Tr. at 37. Mr. Krishnamoorthy admitted that Mr. Zaharis offered him
a position with Pegasus Software in India, but denied that Zaharis told him there was no longer a
Sam Zaharis has the position of Chief Financial Officer for Respondent.
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position for him in the United States. Tr. at 71-72. He understood Zaharis to say there was no
current project (Tr. at 71-72), and that if he were to stay in the States, he would not be paid
unless he was put on another project, at which time he would receive back pay. Tr. at 38; 76.
Mr. Zaharis advised him that he would continue to receive medical insurance coverage, which in
fact he did receive. Tr. at 37, 39. Mr. Krishnamoorthy was in Nashua, New Hampshire when he
talked with Mr. Zaharis. Tr. at 39. He said he talked with colleagues who had also spoken with
Zaharis, and he didnt understand anyone believed he was terminated. Mr. Krishnamoorthy did
not receive written notice that his employment had been terminated or that his visa had been
revoked. Tr. at 39.
A few days after his conversation with Mr. Zaharis, Mr. Krishnamoorthy learned that
some of his colleagues were working directly for Pegasus on an Internal Project, which
apparently he had not been invited to join. Tr. at 39-40. Mr. Krishnamoorthy then reported to
Respondents offices in New Jersey to ask if he could work on the project. Mr. Krishnamoorthy
said that Mr. Zaharis told him that he could join the project but would not be paid for his work.
Tr. at 40. Mr. Krishnamoorthy moved to New Jersey, and reported to Respondents offices to
work on the project, staying at Respondents guesthouse, which he described as two
apartments in Woodbridge, New Jersey. Respondent kept the apartments for people who worked
on Respondents projects. Tr. at 40-41; 46. He believed he had Mr. Zaharis permission to stay
at the guesthouse. Tr. at 77. Simultaneously, Krishnamoorthy leased an apartment in Voorhees,
New Jersey, that he shared with at least one other Pegasus employee. Tr. at 78-79. He stayed at
the guesthouse to save on gas.3 Tr. at 78-79. Mr. Krishnamoorthy worked on the Internal
Project from June to September, full time, five days a week, and filled out time sheets recording
his hours. Tr. at 115; 106.
Mr. Krishnamoorthy identified a number of individuals with whom he worked and lived
during his time working on the Internal Project. Tr. at 42; 100-104. Mr. Krishnamoorthy
worked on the Internal Project for approximately two and ½ months. Id. During his time on the
project he attended meetings held by the project manager, Salil Sharma. Id. at 42-43; 97 The
work was assigned by Mr. Rao, but the day to day project manager was Mr. Subramanian. Tr. at
Mr. Krishnamoorthy recalled getting a telephone call on September 11, 1999 at the
guesthouse from Mr. Zaharis, advising him to report by September 13, 1999 to a project in
Florida for a client, Tech Data. Tr. at 43. Respondent paid his airfare and expenses for the trip
to Florida. Tr. at 43. Once he started working on the Tech Data Project, his pay resumed at the
previous rate of $60,000.00 per year. Tr. at 44. Mr. Krishnamoorthy worked on that project
until mid-February, 2000, when he was told by Mr. Singh that he was to report to Respondents
New Jersey office for training on another software program. Tr. at 45-46. He then was assigned
to the Fomax Project in Philadelphia, to which he commuted daily from Respondents
apartments where he was staying, by way of a vehicle owned by Respondent. Tr. at 46. He
worked on the Fomax Project until July 28, 2000. Tr. at 46.
I take official notice that the distance between Voorhees, New Jersey and Woodbridge New Jersey is significant,
and is approximately 70 miles.
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Mr. Krishnamoorthy recalled that on July 27, 2000, he was asked to meet with the
President of Pegasus, Mr. Paul Parmar, at his office. Tr. at 47. Mr. Parmar asked Mr.
Krishnamoorthy if he had applied for employment elsewhere, and Mr. Krishnamoorthy admitted
that he had, but was uncertain if he would leave Respondent for another job. Tr. at 47. Mr.
Parmar instructed Mr. Krishnamoorthy to decide whether he wanted to work for Pegasus, and
submit a resignation letter if he did not. Id. Mr. Krishnamoorthy subsequently decided to accept
a position with another company, and submitted a resignation letter to Mr. Parmar. Tr. at 48;
ALJX 1. Mr. Krishnamoorthy was not paid his salary for the month of July, 2000. Tr. at 48. On
August 1, 2000, he received a letter advising him that his company-paid medical insurance was
being canceled, and advising him of his rights to continued medical insurance under COBRA.
Tr. at 50. Mr. Krishnamoorthy had not received such a letter previously, when he had no
projects in 1999. Id. Mr. Krishnamoorthy spoke with Mr. Parmar at his home in Michigan in
late August or early September, 2000, at which time Mr. Parmar offered him work on a project in
California, which Mr. Krishnamoorthy declined. Tr. at 51. During his conversation with Parmar
he did not bring up the fact that he thought Respondent owed him money, because he did not
have the figures compiled, and he wasnt prepared for the call. Tr. at 58.
In a letter dated June 19, 2000, Mr. Krishnamoorthy signed an acknowledgement that he
would receive reimbursement of the security deposit he had paid Respondent in India, and also
acknowledged that Respondent owed him no past due amounts. Tr. at 49; AX 8. Mr.
Krishnamoorthy felt compelled to sign the acknowledgement in order to receive a refund of his
deposit, and also to secure his position with Respondent. Tr. at 50; 83-86.
After he left Pegasus, and after his last conversation with Mr. Parmar, Mr.
Krishnamoorthy sent an e-mail to Mr. Dan Pachelli4 in which he asked for the salary he was due
for the month of July, 2000, and also for vacation pay and miscellaneous expenses that he
believed he was due. Tr. at 60-61, 65; EX 4. He did not include the amount he was not paid in
1999 when he was either not on a project or working on the Internal Project, and never made a
demand to anyone at Pegasus after he left for the 1999 wages. Tr. at 61-63. Mr.
Krishnamoorthy at first explained his failure to make the request on his workload (TR. at 64), but
later admitted that he wasnt sure what he was due for the benching period until consulting with
colleagues who had been awarded back wages in litigation. Tr. at 65. Krishnamoorthy described
contacting DOL by letter sometime in 2001 about not receiving his wages from Pegasus after he
learned that other individuals had received payments. Tr. at 53-56. He recalled responding to a
letter from the DOL that inquired into his employment with Respondent Tr. at 53. He was not
familiar with DOLs jurisdiction until he talked to other people. Tr. at 110-11. According to
Krishnamoorthy, Mr. Pachelli advised him that the company didnt owe him any additional
money for various reasons. Tr. at 66. Mr. Krishnamoorthy believed it would be futile to make
demands for other payments. Tr. at 67. He did not ask Mr. Zaharis for his back pay when he
spoke with him in September of 1999 because he thought hed get back pay once he returned to
work for Respondent Tr. at 91. After he returned to work, he asked Zaharis if he would get his
back pay and was told no. Tr. at 92.
Mr. Krishnamoorthy admitted that he expected his employment with Respondent to be
temporary, but thought it would last the three years covered by his visa. Tr. at 69. Mr.
Mr. Pachelli is employed as payroll and benefits manager. Tr. at 306.
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Krishnamoorthys new employer applied for a new visa, and he joined that company on
September 19, 2000 after it was approved. Tr. at 109.
Mr. Rehl has been an investigator for the United States Department of Labors Wage and
Hour Division since 1997. Tr. at 125. He investigated Mr. Krishnamoorthys complaint
involving his wages while employed by Respondent, and also conducted an investigation of
Respondents payment of wages to other individuals who worked for Pegasus under H-1B visas.
Tr. at 125-127. Mr. Rehls investigation involved discussions with Mr. Krishnamoorthy, other
employees of Pegasus, and company officials, as well as reviewing documentation relating to
Mr. Krishnamoorthys visa and employment. Tr. at 129-133; AX 11, AX 12, AX 13, AX 14,
AX 16, AX 20. His investigation revealed that the LCA certified for Mr. Krishnamoorthy
included a prevailing wage of $38,125.00, but that Mr. Krishnamoorthys actual wages were
$60,000.00 per year. Tr. at 130, 136; AX 16. The investigation further revealed that Mr.
Krishnamoorthy was paid $38,625.12 in 1999. Tr. at 136; AX 18. Mr. Rehl reviewed
documentation provided by Respondent that indicated that Mr. Krishnamoorthy had been
terminated by Respondent on July 27, 2000. AX 19; Tr. at 137. As the result of his
investigation, Mr. Rehl concluded that Respondent had improperly failed to pay Mr.
Krishnamoorthy for the period from May, 1999 until September, 1999. Tr. at 138.
Mr. Rehl computed back wages due to Mr. Krishnamoorthy using a combination of the
prevailing wage rate and the actual salary that had been paid to Mr. Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at 141-
143; AX 15. For the period of time when Mr. Krishnamoorthy was nonproductive, or
benched, Mr. Rehl used the prevailing wage rate of $38,145, for a weekly sum of $733.56 to
calculate back wages due. Tr. at 142. For the period when he determined that Mr.
Krishnamoorthy had worked on the Internal Project and the Fomax Project, he used his actual
rate of pay, which was computed at $1153.85 a week. Tr. at 142-143; 163-164. Based upon his
review of the records, and his interviews with Mr. Krishnamoorthy and other employees, Mr.
Rehl used June 1, 1999 as the date when Mr. Krishnamoorthy began to work on the Internal
Project until September, 1999, and then for wages due for the month of July, 2000. AX 20; Tr.
at 143. Mr. Rehl found that Respondent had failed to pay $24,857.39 in back wages. AX 17; Tr.
at 144; 165-166. Mr. Rehl didnt believe there was any indication that he was actually
terminated before July, 2000. Tr. at 166-168.
Mr. Rehl also concluded that Respondents violations were willful, and he computed civil
money penalties in the amount of $5,000.00, which is the maximum amount of penalty per
violation permitted under prevailing regulations. Tr. at 145. Mr. Rehl based his determination
of Respondents willfulness on the fact that Mr. Krishnamoorthys complaint had been made
previously by other employees, and that as the result of a prior investigation into those
complaints, Pegasus understood that they had to pay employees while they were on the bench in
a nonproductive period. Tr. at 144.
In the course of his investigation, Mr. Rehl sought corroboration of Mr.
Krishnamoorthys assertion that he had worked on Respondents Internal Project in Woodbridge
New Jersey, and spoke with other individuals who verified that Krishnamoorthy had been with
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them in Woodbridge. Tr. at 139. Mr. Rehl discussed his findings with Mr. Zaharis, and then
with Respondents attorney. Tr. at 140-141.
Mr. Parmar is the President of Pegasus Consulting Group, which provides computer
related strategy and management consulting to its clients. Tr. at 189-190. Mr. Parmar explained
that Pegasus Systems is not legally related to Respondent, but admitted that Pegasus Consulting
relies upon Pegasus Systems to provide trained professionals to work on its projects under the H-
1B visa program. Tr. at 191-193. Mr. Parmar has been involved in recruiting the talent that
trains in India with Pegasus Systems before coming to the United States and working for Pegasus
Consulting. Tr. at 193-194. Mr. Parmar explained that he required participants to pay a security
deposit before beginning their training in India, because the program was expensive to provide,
and the deposit acted as an incentive for their continued participation. Tr. at 194-195. He
estimated that 150 individuals were hired for Respondent through this method, including Mr.
Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at 197.
Mr. Parmar explained that although the LCA set a lower prevailing wage than what
Respondent was required to pay, he had decided to pay $60,000.00 to their people because they
were doing something a little different from straight software work. Tr. at 196. He described a
downturn in his business in 1999 and 2000 that required him to put a lot of people on
downtime for two months. Tr. at 198. Mr. Parmar was reluctant to lay people off at first, but
when it became apparent to him that business wasnt improving, he concluded that people would
have to return to India. Tr. at 198-199. He made the decision to lay people off in March, 1999.
Tr. at 200-201. He directed Mr. Zaharis to conduct cost analysis to determine how many people
could be retained and how many should be returned. Tr. at 202. In addition, he identified
individuals with specific skill sets who would be retained in the United States, in the event that
business would pick up. Tr. at 202-203. Mr. Parmar hoped to avoid losing the people he had
identified as most valuable, and he and other management officials devised a scripted message to
deliver to people identified for lay off. Tr. at 204. Mr. Krishnamoorthy was among those
employees who were advised that there was no work and he could stay and hope for work in the
future, or he could choose to return to India. Tr. at 206. He estimated that Respondent laid off
more than 20 people in 1999. Tr. at 210. Mr. Parmar admitted that Respondent did not give
Krishnamoorthy a written notice of termination in 1999, nor revoke his H-1B visa. Tr. at 216.
Respondent did not receive any notice from INS that Krishnamoorthys visa had been revoked or
canceled in 1999. Tr. at 220.
According to Mr. Parmar the Internal Project was not a real project, as it did not
produce anything, but rather was a training opportunity for people to improve their SAP skills.
Tr. at 199-200; 211. Certain people were selected according to their skill level to receive the
training, and they were paid for their time on the project. Tr. at 211-212. Mr. Salil Sharma
created the training model and established the criteria for participants in this training project. Tr.
at 212. Mr. Parmar was positive that Krishnamoorthy was not among those selected to be trained
because he had to find him to speak with him about his availability for the Tech Data Project in
September, 1999. Id. He thought that the Tech Data Project was better suited to Mr.
Krishnamoorthys skills, as it was a management consulting assignment. Tr. at 213. Mr. Parmar
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did not recall Mr. Krishnamoorthy being present in Woodbridge during the time the Internal
Project was ongoing.
When employees were advised in 1999 that there was no work for them, they expressed
concern about their medical insurance coverage, and Mr. Parmar decided to continue paying it,
as a form of severance pay. Tr. at 209; 251. He did not feel it was necessary to advise INS of
the employees terminations because he had not known that action was required. Tr. at 253. Mr.
Parmar advised that it is Respondents current practice to advise INS of all terminations and
Sotorios (Sam) Zaharis
Mr. Zaharis is currently employed by Respondent as Chief Financial Officer, and has
held other positions with the company since his employment began in 1998. Tr. at 274-275. He
is responsible for business development and assessing litigation risks as well as reviewing work
and projects that are related to finance, which is his field of expertise. Tr. at 275. Mr. Zaharis
was aware that Respondent experienced a decline in business in 1999 that required him to review
the companys financial prospects. Tr. at 276. As the result of his review, he concluded that
Respondent would not be able to retain many of the consultants whose projects were coming to
an end, and for whom no other projects were waiting for assignment. Id. He spoke with each of
the individuals who were designated for termination throughout 1999, starting with the first
group in May, 1999. Id. If he was able to speak with them in person because they were located
near Respondents offices, he did, but otherwise he spoke with many individuals by telephone.
Tr. at 277. He relied upon notes that he made to be assured that he had communicated the same
information to each person with whom he spoke about termination. Tr. at 278; EX 5. Mr.
Zaharis emphasized to the employees that Respondent had no reason to expect improvement in
securing clients and advised them that they were terminated from their employment in the United
States. Tr. at 280-281. He encouraged those employees for whom he saw no work in the
foreseeable future to return to India where they could continue their training with the Indian
company with whom they had started their employment. Tr. at 281-282.
Mr. Zaharis recalled calling Mr. Krishnamoorthy to tell him he was terminated, and
referred to notes he made that documented the conversation. Tr. at 283; EX 5. He did not
specifically recall his conversation with Mr. Krishnamoorthy, as he had delivered the same
message to dozens of people during the course of 1999. Tr. at 285. Every employee who was
terminated, including Mr. Krishnamoorthy, was offered a ticket back to India for themselves and
their families, including Mr. Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at 286. Mr. Zaharis disputed Mr.
Krishnamoorthys recollection that he had been given two options. The only option that Mr.
Zaharis offered was the option to return to India at Respondents expense. Tr. at 287. Mr.
Krishnamoorthy had no further job duties or obligations after the telephone conversation, as the
termination was immediately effective. Tr. at 288. Employees were given two weeks to settle
their affairs and advise him of whether they would accept the offer of employment by the Indian
entity. Tr. at 288-289. Mr. Zaharis estimated that he delivered his termination speech to
between 30 and 50 employees. Tr. at 292-293.
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Mr. Zaharis was assigned the responsibility in 1999 to recruit approximately one dozen
people to work on the Internal Project, which he estimated lasted about one month. Tr. at 293.
These individuals were paid $5,000.00 for participating in that project. Id.; EX 10, EX 11. Mr.
Krishnamoorthy was not among the individuals selected for the project. Tr. at 296. Mr. Zaharis
used payroll records to explain that in the early part of 2000, Mr. Krishnamoorthy was paid
approximately $1,200.00 for vacation pay due from 1999, which brought his total compensation
in that year to approximately $40,000.00. Tr. at 301. Mr. Zaharis denied telling Mr.
Krishnamoorthy that he could work on the project but would not be paid. Tr. at 339. His office
was situated close to the area where people worked on that project, and he had occasion to visit
the area. Tr. at 340. He did not recall ever seeing Mr. Krishnamoorthy there. Tr. at 341. In
addition, the rehired consultants were provided access cards to the facility for security reasons,
and Mr. Krishnamoorthy was not issued one. Tr. at 349.
Mr. Zaharis recalled that Mr. Krishnamoorthy was rehired by Respondent in September,
1999. Tr. at 302. Mr. Zaharis did not recall personally offering Mr. Krishnamoorthy
employment at that time, but allowed that it would have been part of his role to have done so. Id.
He recalled having several conversations with Mr. Krishnamoorthy, and denied that
Krishnamoorthy ever made a demand for payment. Tr. at 303. Mr. Zaharis recalled Mr.
Krishnamoorthys e-mail requesting money for a period in 2000. Id.; EX 4. He recalled that
Respondent communicated to Mr. Krishnamoorthy its position that it owed no additional money
to him because he failed to give proper notice when he resigned his position after transferring his
H-1B visa to another company. Tr. at 304. Respondent made deductions in reliance upon a
clause in its employment contract with Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at 305. Mr. Zaharis could not recall
whether he or Respondents payroll manager, Mr. Pachelli, informed Mr. Krishnamoorthy of the
reason for the deduction. Id. Mr. Zaharis explained that after working for Respondent in a
consulting capacity for 12 months, employees would receive a refund of a deposit they had paid
in India. Tr. at 309. Mr. Krishnamoorthy acknowledged that he was eligible for such refund and
also signed a statement that no other monies were due to him. Id.; AX 8. Mr. Zaharis denied
that Krishnamoorthy had ever demanded refund of the deposit, and further denied that he was
pressured to sign the document in June, 2000. Tr. at 310.
Mr. Zaharis recalled meeting with Mr. Rehl upon the conclusion of his investigation of
Respondent, but denied that Respondent failed to provide requested information to the
Department of Labor. Tr. at 317. He recalled that he thought it prudent to suspend Respondents
response to the investigators findings until the litigation of the first investigation was concluded.
Tr. at 316-317. Zaharis recalled that Mr. Rehl disclosed that he had found improprieties with
respect to the purported 1999 termination of Mr. Krishnamoorthy, and again with respect to his
payment in July, 2000, but could not recall the specifics of their discussion regarding the status
of Mr. Krishnamoorthys visa. Tr. at 317-318. Mr. Zaharis could not recall an instance where
Respondent learned that an individual had transferred a visa, or applied for a new one. Tr. at 318-
319. He asserted that the only notification that Respondent received regarding change of status
of an individuals H-1B visa was confirmation from INS after Respondent sought to terminate or
cancel an individuals visa. Id. Mr. Zaharis understood that INS, and not employers, had the
authority to cancel visas. Tr. at 335.
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Mr. Zaharis confirmed that Respondent had not canceled Mr. Krishnamoorthys visa in
1999 after he was advised there was no more work, nor did they file a new one when he was
brought back to work in September, 1999. Tr. at 321. It was Respondents policy to pay
employees who were benched in 1999. Tr. at 322-323. He believed that Mr. Krishnamoorthy
was terminated at the end of May, 1999, and could not explain why he received no payments for
the month of May. Tr. at 338.
Mr. Jain had been employed by Respondent from 1998 until April 2004, but had been
laid off by Pegasus in 1999. Tr. at 355. He held several positions with the company, the last
being the practice director. Id. In that capacity, he was responsible for assisting project teams
resolve problems and perform other compliance and problem resolution duties. Tr. at 356. He
began his career with Pegasus in India, where he trained with Pegasus Systems before joining
Pegasus Consulting in the United States. Tr. at 357. Mr. Jain was familiar with the concept of
being on the bench and was paid by Respondent for unproductive time. Tr. at 359. In June,
1999, he was on the bench in Michigan when he received a call from Mr. Zaharis who told him
that he was terminated because the company could not find new projects. Id. He was offered a
ticket back to India, and he requested some time to consider the offer. Id. Mr. Jain was
expecting Mr. Zaharis call, because he had received a telephone call from his friend, Mr.
Krishnamoorthy, who told him that Zaharis had a similar conversation with him and other people
who were on the bench. Tr. at 360.
After speaking with Mr. Zaharis, Mr. Jain understood that he no longer could expect
work from Pegasus, and if he wanted to stay in the United States, he needed to find a new job
very quickly, and at the same time prepare himself to return to India if he could not. Tr. at 361.
Mr. Jain understood that he was required to transfer his visa within 30 days. Tr. at 361. He saw
no option other than find a job quickly, or return to India. Tr. at 363. He was fortunate to find
another company that agreed to take him on in less than 4 weeks, and he transferred his H-1B
visa towards the end of July, 1999. Tr. at 364. Mr. Jain rejoined Pegasus in September, 1999, to
work on the Tech Data Project in Florida, where he worked with Mr. Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at
366. He recalled that Mr. Krishnamoorthy told him that he had parked his visa, which is the
practice where an individual transfers his visa to a company willing to accept it so that the
employee is not illegally in the country. Tr. at 367. Mr. Jains understanding was that there is
no limit on the number of times a visa could be transferred, and that he also could have a visa
with two different companies that spanned the same time period. Tr. at 371. He also understood
that the employer who originally secured the visa, in this case, Pegasus, need not be told that the
visa was transferred to another employer. Tr. at 378. Although he transferred his visa to S3
Consulting in August, 1999, following his termination from Pegasus, he did not actually work
for that company. Tr. at 372. Mr. Jain admitted that he had in effect parked his visa with S3
Consulting, although he had hoped to be assigned a project. Tr. at 373.
Mr. Jain returned to Pegasus on September 6, 1999. Tr. at 373. When he returned, he did
not need to fill out any paperwork to come back on the payroll, although he recalled discussing
renegotiations of his salary. Tr. at 380. Mr. Jain received a notice of termination when he left
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Respondents employment, advising him of his final date of employment. Tr. at 381. He
transferred his visa from Respondent to his subsequent and current Employer. Tr. at 382.
Mr. Sharma has been employed by Respondent for nine years as the Vice President of
Technology. Tr. at 386. His primary responsibility is to provide technical solutions to
Respondents clients and to maintain Respondents infrastructure. Tr. at 386-387. He recalled
that sometime in late June, 1999 through early August, 1999, he was assigned the role of project
manager for the Internal Project, which employed 12 people. Tr. at 387-388. He knows
Krishnamoorthy, and denied that he was selected to work on the project. Tr. at 388. Mr. Sharma
was at the site where the project was underway on a daily basis, planning the project, conducting
meetings, assessing the projects progress. Tr. at 389. Mr. Sharma never saw Mr.
Krishnamoorthy at any of the project meetings. Tr. at 390. Mr. Sharma recommended that the
project be terminated because the participants were more focused on finding new employment
than on the project, and management accepted his suggestion and terminated the project in early
August. Tr. at 391.
Stipulation regarding testimony of Bhavesh Patel
Mr. Patel was actively involved in interviewing candidates for positions with Pegasus.
Tr. at 393. The parties stipulated that Mr. Patel would have testified that at the time of their
initial recruitment in India, employees were advised that the position was temporary, and that if
projects were concluded and work was no longer available, they would be expected to return to
India for continued training, and to wait for other potential assignments. Tr. at 392. In addition,
Mr. Patel was on site as project manager with Mr. Krishnamoorthy in July, 2000, when he
learned that Krishnamoorthy had obtained a visa with a different employer. Tr. at 394.
Affidavit & Declaration Testimony
Affidavit of Sathiyamoorthi Koteeswaran (EX 13)
Mr. Koteeswaran stated that he works for America International Group, Inc, but was
employed by Pegasus Software in India in 1998, and went on to work for Respondent in the
United States once his H-1B visa was approved. He worked on the Auto Desk Project until it
ended in April, 1999. He did not receive further assignments from Respondent after that time,
and was paid for his benched period. In May, 1999, he was advised that because of lack of work,
his position in the United States was terminated, but he was offered a position with Pegasus in
India, and was offered a plane ticket to return. He sought alternative employment in the United
States rather than return to India. He understood that his job with Pegasus ended May, 1, 1999,
and he received his last paycheck in mid-May, 1999. In late 1999, Mr. Koteeswaran learned that
Respondent was seeking SAP consultants, which is his field of expertise, and he inquired about
returning to Respondent. He was rehired by Pegasus, and commenced work on or about
December 8, 1999. He renegotiated his employment contract with Respondent before returning
to their employ. He was assigned to additional projects thereafter, and has been paid all
compensation to which he is owed.
- 13 -
Documentary and Other Evidence
DOL Form WH 55
Pegasus Employee Conference Announcement
List of Attendees at Annual Conference and Conference Agenda
E-mail dated September 25, 2000
Notes by Sam Zaharis
Vacation Accrual Sheet for 1999
Receipt of June 30, 2000 signed by Mr. Krishnamoorthy
Pegasus Worksheet of final payment due Mr. Krishnamoorthy
Personnel records referring to Marender N. Kehemani
Copies of checks paid to employees in 1999
Portions of ADP Payroll register for period 12/15 -12/31/99
Transcript of conversation between Paul Parmar and Veeraju Bikkani
Affidavit of Sathiyamoorthi Koteeswaran
Transcript of Proceedings of February 26, 2002
Employment Agreement between Pegasus and Krishnamoorthy dated December
Employment Agreement between Pegasus and Krishnamoorthy dated April 1,
H-1B visa Petition for Krishnamoorthy
INS Form 1797B dated August 24, 1998
Letter of September 23, 1998
- 14 -
Earnings Statements dated 5/17/99, 10/1/99 and 7/17/00
W-2s from 1999 and 2000 for Krishnamoorthy
Letter dated June 19, 2000
Letter dated August 1, 2000
Interview Statements of Krishnananda Adka & Venkatesan Iyengar
Payroll register dated 7/17/00
Employee Earnings Record dated 9/30/00
Letter of August 3, 2000
Letter of November 21, 2000
Labor Condition Application filed by Pegasus on December 19,
1997 (Case No. 348138)
DOL WH 55
Pegasus H-1B 1999 Payroll
DOL information request
DOL Follow up
Decision and Order of November 13, 2002 of ALJ Ralph A. Romano
DOL Has Inherent Authority to Determine Whether Bona Fide Termination Was
The Act delegates to the Secretary of DOL the authority to enforce an employers
obligations under a certified LCA. The Act directs DOL to establish a process for the receipt,
investigation and disposition of complaints respecting a petitioners failure to meet a condition
specified in an application submitted under [the Act]. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n)(2)(A). Among the
conditions of employment cited in Respondents LCA was the amount it proposed to pay
Krishnamoorthy, the date his employment was expected to begin, and the period of time it
expected Mr. Krishnamoorthys employment to last. In addition, the Act expects employers to
pay employees unless a bona fide termination has occurred. 20 C.F.R. § 655.731 (c)(7)(11).
- 15 -
In order to accomplish its enforcement mandate, DOL has implicit authority to determine
whether an employee working under an H-1B visa who was not in pay status was involuntarily
or voluntarily nonproductive. See, 20 C.F.R. § 655.731 (c); 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n)(2)(c)(vii)(III).
Such inquiry should disclose whether the employer was or was not in compliance with the
conditions of employment that it established in an LCA. The authority to determine whether non
pay status occurred because of a bona fide termination is implied in the authority to determine
compliance with the LCA, and specifically, with the regulatory directive that [p]ayment need
not be made if there has been a bona fide termination of the employment relationship. 20
C.F.R. § 655.731 (c)(7)(11). I do not find that a determination that a bona fide termination
occurred is dispositive of the question of the duration of an employees employment, as has been
argued by Respondent. Although a finding that a bona fide termination occurred might suggest
the end point of a period of employment, in the case before me, there is no assertion that
Respondent violated any LCA relating to how long Mr. Krishnamoorthy worked for Pegasus.
Accordingly, I need not address the duration of his employment.
I find that DOL properly inquired into whether Mr. Krishnamoorthys nonproductive
time was attributable to a bona fide termination, and moreover, to make a reasonable
interpretation of what that means.
Respondent Violated the Act by Failing to Pay Wages to Mr. Krishnamoorthy
Between May 1, 1999 through September 12, 1999.
It is undisputed that Respondent did not pay Krishnamoorthy for the period between May
1, 1999 through September 12, 1999. There is also no doubt that Respondent was familiar with
its obligation to pay employees for involuntary nonproductive time, and Respondents President
testified that the costs of paying employees for time on the bench, and the bleak prospects for
future business, prompted him to ask his Chief Financial Officer to calculate the costs of
shedding H-1B workers from the payroll. Tr. at 202. The record credibly reflects that Mr.
Zaharis made it clear to those employees who were not selected to remain on the payroll that the
company had no work for them. See, Testimony of Zaharis, Jain, Koteeswaran, and to some
degree, Krishnamoorthy. I am convinced that those employees understood that Respondent did
not consider them to be on the bench, and that they had no reason to believe that they would
receive further remuneration from Respondent.
The fact that Respondent failed to include Mr. Krishnamoorthy on its list of employees,
and that Respondents payroll records do not disclose any payments to him for periods between
May, 1999 and mid-September, 1999 support Respondents belief that he was not an employee
of Pegasus during this period. EX 2, 3. I place little weight on Respondents continuation of Mr.
Krishnamoorthy medical benefits for a period of time as an indicia of his continued
employment, as the record does not discuss the cost to Pegasus of terminating and then reviving
such benefits within a period of months. I also find the testimony that employees who were
identified as superfluous were given the opportunity to accept a plane ticket for their return to
India, and were offered employment there, is credible and consistent.
I acknowledge that in other labor relationships, the information that Mr. Zaharis
conveyed to employees in his communications in May, 1999, would constitute termination of
- 16 -
employment. Indeed, by offering employees airfare to return to India, Respondent met at least
one requirement imposed upon the termination of the employment relationship. See, 20 C.F.R. §
655.731 (c)(7)(11); 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(iii)(E). In addition, the record reflects that at least some
of the severed employees took measures to assure that they would remain in the United States
legally by looking for other employment, and by finding other employers willing to accept a
transfer of their visas. Such actions are consistent with the acts of individuals who believe that
they no longer have a job, and will no longer be paid bench time. I find it reasonable to accord
credibility to Mr. Jains testimony that Mr. Krishnamoorthy sought to assure that he would stay
in the States by taking similar action, despite his contention that he did not. I make this
observation as foundation for my conclusion that I do not find Mr. Krishnamoorthys testimony
on this issue totally credible, without making a determination on this issue of whether it is
permissible for H-1B workers to transfer their visas for brief periods of time. Mr.
Krishnamoorthy took an apartment in Voorhees, New Jersey, with several other individuals, and
his explanation for that decision is not entirely credible. At the time, he asserted he was working
for Respondent some distance away in Woodbridge, New Jersey and staying at apartments paid
for by Respondent. Tr. at 75-81. It is reasonable to conclude that he moved to Voorhees in
hopes of finding other work, which supports finding that he understood that he was no longer
working for Respondent. In any event, it is reasonable to conclude that he was seeking other
work because he had no source of income at the time. Tr. at 78.
Despite the aforestated facts, I am unable to conclude that Respondent effected a bona
fide termination in circumstances related to working conditions under an H-1B visa. It is
undisputed that Respondent sought out Mr. Krishnamoorthy for re-employment in September,
1999, and indeed, rehired him and assigned him to projects. Other individuals who had been let
go in May, 1999, were also rehired at that time and shortly thereafter. Both Mr. Parmar and Mr.
Zaharis used the term that they sought to lay off people in May, 1999. Tr. at 199, 105, 175-
176. Although not the sole determinative factor, I place weight upon the fact that Respondent
did not notify INS that it had terminated its employment relationship with Krishnamoorthy in
May, 1999. I find it significant that Mr. Parmars testimony demonstrates his familiarity with the
H-1B visa process, yet the evidence reflects noncompliance with program requirements. It is
significant that Respondent failed to fulfill the INS notification requirement when it severed Mr.
Krishnamoorthys employment, but fulfilled the requirement of offering to pay his return flight
to India. I conclude that based upon Respondents experience with employees hired under the H-
1B program, and the acknowledged financial advantage to employees of working in the United
States as opposed to India5, Respondent took a calculated risk that most laid off employees
would refuse the offer of plane fare to India, and would seek to park their visas in the hope that
Respondents business might pick up. Mr. Parmar admitted that employees were told that
rather than hiring any new employee, we would consider them for new employment. So Im
pretty sure we may have made representations but said, you know, as soon as theres work, you
would be the first ones to be considered, but that wasnt in tune with you have to go back to
India. Tr. at 206.
I note that Respondent did not hesitate to notify INS when Mr. Krishnamoorthy initiated
the severance of the employment relationship in July, 2000. Respondent notified INS within a
The record indicates that employees of Pegasus Systems in India earned far less money than employees of Pegasus
Consulting in the United States.
- 17 -
month that the employment relationship had been terminated. AX 13. In addition, in contrast to
its continuation of Krishnamoorthys medical insurance in May, 1999, Respondent advised
Krishnamoorthy on August 1, 2000, that his medical insurance was terminated as of July 29,
2000. AX 9. This inconsistent conduct adds weight to my conclusion that Respondent sought to
save money by implementing a lay off in May, 1999, which is impermissible under the rules that
apply to employment under an H-1B visa. The rules clearly require an employer to effect a bona
fide termination, or pay employees for nonproductive time. I find that the circumstances in the
instant matter fit squarely within those described by DOL in its preamble to the regulations,
wherein a lay off of an employee followed by his subsequent rehire is not considered a bona
fide termination without cancellation of his H-1B petition, or its transfer to an interim employer
for whom the individual was working. See 20 C.F.R. Part 655.
The regulations recognize that a transfer of a visa to a subsequent employer may be
sufficient to indicate that a bona fide termination occurred. In the case before me, some
individuals whose employment with Respondent was severed in May, 1999, parked their visas
with other potential employers. There is disputed evidence that Mr. Krishnamoorthy also
transferred his visa sometime after May, 1999, and before he returned to work for Respondent in
September, 1999. I find it unnecessary to determine if Mr. Krishnamoorthy had transferred his
visa to another employer during that period, because there is no evidence that he performed work
for anyone else. (Indeed, he alleges that he worked at Respondents offices on an Internal
Project). I find that the mere transfer of a visa is insufficient to demonstrate that the H-1B visa
worker was working for another employer under an H-1B petition, transferred or otherwise, as
required by the regulations. The record is clear that Mr. Krishnamoorthy did not return to his
home country before being rehired, nor did he experience a change in his visa status before being
rehired. See, Preamble to 20 C.F.R. Part 655, page 80171.
I place little weight on the conflict in the record regarding whether Krishnamoorthy
requested back wages. Neither do I find it probative to my determination on the issues to decide
whether Mr. Krishnamoorthy signed a receipt for refund of a pre-employment deposit under
duress or coercion. Whether Krishnamoorthy is due back pay is not dependent upon his
subjective belief that the money is due him. I do not find resolution of this issue material in any
way to a determination of whether Respondent was obligated to pay him for nonproductive time.
Accordingly, I find that the record establishes that Respondent did not effect a bona fide
termination when it laid off Mr. Krishnamoorthy in May, 1999. Accordingly, Respondent is
responsible for compensating him for the period between May 1, 1999, and September 12, 1999.
Respondent Violated the Act by Failing to Pay Wages to Mr. Krishnamoorthy in
The evidence is uncontroverted that Krishnamoorthy was not paid for the work he
performed for Respondent in July, 2000. AX 6, AX 12, AX 19; Tr. at 226. Respondent
characterized its failure to make the payments as a deduction contemplated by its employment
contract with Mr. Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at 323-325. The Act and prevailing regulations allow
certain deductions from pay due to H-1B visa workers, but an early termination penalty, which is
how I have classified this deduction, is clearly prohibited. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n)(2)(c)(vi)(I); 20
- 18 -
C.F.R. § 655.731(c)(10)(i). Regardless of the validity of the employment agreement (execution
of which is in dispute; Tr. 33, 106; AX 1, AX 2), I find that Respondent violated the Act by not
paying Mr. Krishnamoorthy for his productive time in July, 2000.
Respondent is Responsible to Pay Krishnamoorthy $26,500.00 in Back Wages for
the Period from May 1, 1999 through September 12, 1999, and for July, 2000.
Compliance Investigator Ronald Rehl computed back wages due to Mr. Krishnamoorthy
using different rates of pay. Tr. 141-143; AX 17. For the period from May 1, 1999 through June
1, 1999, Mr. Rehl concluded that Mr. Krishnamoorthy was benched and entitled to a pro rata
share of the prevailing rate required by the applicable LCA, $38,145.00 per year. Mr. Rehl
concluded that Mr. Krishnamoorthy had worked for Respondent on its Internal Project during the
period from June 2, 1999, through September 12, 1999, and used his actual wages, or $60,000.00
to prorate the amount he concluded was due. Mr. Rehl used Mr. Krishnamoorthys actual wage
of $60,000.00 to compute the amount due for July, 2000. Mr. Rehl believed that he had
discretion to choose how to calculate back wages due to Mr. Krishnamoorthy. Tr. at 181.
DOL has promulgated regulations that address its duties under the Act, including setting
remedies for violations of the statute or regulations that include payment of back wages to
workers who were underpaid, debarment of employers from securing workers under the H-1B
visa program, the imposition of civil money penalties, and other relief that DOL deems
appropriate. 20 C.F.R. § 655.810; § 655.855. 20 C.F.R. § 655.810(a) provides that upon
determining that an employer has failed to pay required wages, back wages shall be assessed,
and shall be equal to the difference between the amount that was paid and the amount that should
have been paid. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 655.840(b):
The decision of the administrative law judge shall include a statement of findings
and conclusions, with reasons and basis therefore, upon each material issue
presented on the record. The decision shall also include an appropriate order
which may affirm, deny, reverse, or modify, in whole or in part, the determination
of the Administrator; the reason or reasons for such order shall be stated in the
20 C.F.R. § 655.840(b).
I find it appropriate to modify the Administrators calculation of back wage payments.
Mr. Rehl concluded that Mr. Krishnamoorthy was working on an Internal Project, but I find no
corroborative evidence that he did so. In fact, I accord greater credibility to the evidence that
reflects that he was not among the individuals invited to participate in this project. Though Mr.
Krishnamoorthys testimony conflicts with Mr. Zaharis testimony about their conversation
regarding Krishnamoorthy participating in the project, the record is clear that he was not selected
as a participant by Respondent. The project manager denied seeing Mr. Krishnamoorthy at the
project; Respondents payroll records that reflect payments to individuals for their time on the
project do not include Mr. Krishnamoorthy; and Mr. Krishnamoorthys testimony about the
duration and the purpose of the project is inconsistent with the other evidence of record.
However, in rejecting Mr. Krishnamoorthys assertion that he worked on the Internal Project, I
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do not mean to completely reject his contention that he was present at Respondents offices
during the pendency of the project. Although he was not among the individuals issued a security
pass, it is reasonable to conclude that he joined other authorized individuals when they reported
to the office, and was not observed. The project manager testified that he was not on site all day,
and it is conceivable that his path did not cross Mr. Krishnamoorthys. Mr. Zaharis believed he
would have seen him at the office because of the proximity of the project area to his workspace,
but Mr. Zaharis was not directly involved in the oversight of the project, and it is reasonable to
find that Mr. Krishnamoorthy was on site at one time or another. I find this a reasonable
conclusion in consideration of Mr. Zaharis concession that he did not know how many
employees occupied the residential space that Respondent paid for, and his admission that people
came to and went from that space at their convenience. Tr. at 341.
The Administrator concluded that Mr. Krishnamoorthy was working on the project, and
therefore was entitled to a prorated share of his salary. I conclude that the project more closely
resembled continued training, and individuals who were invited to participate were paid a set fee
for their participation that appeared to be unrelated to their actual wage. Therefore, I find Mr.
Rehls rationale for the calculation of wages due to Krishnamoorthy for this period is not fully
supported by the record. However, I find it unnecessary to reach a definitive conclusion about
whether Mr. Krishnamoorthy participated in the Internal Project. There is no dispute that he was
not paid for the period between May 1, 1999 and September 12, 1999, and I have determined that
Respondent failed to effect a bona fide termination of the employment relationship.
Accordingly, he is entitled to payment for nonproductive time.
In consideration of all of the evidence, I find it appropriate to calculate Krishnamoorthys
back wage payments on the basis of his actual pay from Respondent. I find no reason to
compute back wages at a rate other than that required by 20 C.F.R. § 655.731(a), which states
that for the entire period of authorized employment, the required wage rate will be paid to the
H-1B nonimmigrants; that is, that the wage shall be the greater of the actual wage rate or the
prevailing wage. Although I am mindful that Respondents total payment to Mr.
Krishnamoorthy meets or exceeds the prevailing wage under his H-1B visa, it was Respondent
that decided to pay him at a higher rate of pay. Tr. at 196. In the instant matter,
Krishnamoorthys actual wage was determined by Respondent to be $60,000.00 per annum. Pro-
rated monthly, Mr. Krishnamoorthys wages would equal $5,000.00. He was not paid for 4.3
months of nonproductive time. Accordingly, I find that Krishnamoorthy is due back wages in
the amount of $21,500.00 for the period from May 1 through September 12, 1999; and in the
amount of $5,000.00 for July, 2000.
The Evidence Does Not Support an Assessment of Civil Money Penalties for
The assessment of civil money penalties is authorized for willful failure to comply with
regulations pertaining to the H-1B visa program. 20 C.F.R. § 655.805(a)(9)(b); 8 U.S.C. §
1182(n)(2)(C)(ii)(I). The unreasonable, but not reckless, conduct of an employer in determining
its legal obligation does not constitute willfulness. McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe Co., 486 U.S.
128, 133 (1988).
- 20 -
Mr. Rehl testified that he computed civil money penalties because his investigation into
how Krishnamoorthy was paid was a reinvestigation of Respondent. Tr. at 144. I do not find
this factually accurate so as to support a finding of willful behavior, because the incidents
underlying the instant investigation occurred contemporaneously to the incidents that were
involved in the Administrators earlier investigation of Respondent. Therefore, I cannot find that
Respondent failed to pay Mr. Krishnamoorthy despite its knowledge from a prior investigation
that its pay practices were improper.
Further, I am not convinced that Respondent recklessly stopped paying Krishnamoorthy
in May, 1999, because the evidence reflects that he was advised that there was no work left for
him to perform, and was offered a paid ticket to return to India. I also note that Respondent did
pay Krishnamoorthy for some period of bench time, which demonstrates that it recognized its
obligation to do so. With respect to the non payment in July, 2000, Respondents President
relied upon an employment contract as grounds for deducting Krishnamoorthys pay, which
reflects a reasonable interpretation of Respondents obligations, and does not demonstrate the
level of recklessness necessary to support the imposition of a civil money penalty. Accordingly,
I find that the Administrator has failed to meet its burden of establishing that Respondents
conduct was willful so as to warrant assessment of civil money penalties. Accordingly, I dismiss
Administrators claim for such.
Respondent failed to properly effect a bona fide termination of Krishnamoorthy in May 1999,
and thereby violated the regulatory mandate to pay H-1B visa workers for unproductive time. In
addition, Respondent improperly deducted money from Krishnamoorthys pay in violation of the
prevailing regulations. Back wages are due to Krishnamoorthy, but a civil money penalty is not
Respondent is ORDERED to pay the Administrator the sum of $26,500.00, representing
the total of wage deficiencies owed to Rajnarayanan Krishnamoorthy, and is directed to
distribute such sum to him.
The Administrators assessment of civil money penalties is DISMISSED.
Janice K. Bullard
Administrative Law Judge
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
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NOTICE OF APPEAL RIGHTS: Pursuant to 20 CFR § 655.845, any party dissatisfied with this
Decision and Order may appeal it to the Administrative Review Board, United States
Department of Labor, Room S-4309, Frances Perkins Building, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20210, by filing a petition to review the Decision and Order. The petition for
review must be received by the Administrative Review Board within 30 calendar days of the date
of the Decision and Order. Copies of the petition shall be served on all parties and on the
administrative law judge.
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