U.S. Alert – DOL OIG Finds ETA’s Lack of Key Controls Over H-2B Process Jeopardizes Businesses


DOL OIG Finds ETA’s Lack of Key Controls Over H-2B Process Jeopardizes Businesses
The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently found that the Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) lack of controls over the H-2B applications process has jeopardized businesses that depend on H-2B workers. The OIG investigated this issue after members of Congress expressed concerns over reported delays in the H-2B application process, which allows U.S. employers to hire temporary nonimmigrant workers for nonagricultural labor and services. H-2B application processing delays “could prevent employers from obtaining foreign workers by their date of need” or “obtain[ing] U.S. workers to fill those positions,” the OIG said.

The OIG noted that ETA did not evaluate the impact of its overall H-2B process on two other agencies (the Departments of Homeland Security and State) that are part of the overall process, hold staff accountable for meeting internal application processing goals, or manage resources appropriately, potentially affecting jobs in numerous industries, such as shrimp and crab, landscaping, housekeeping, construction, amusement parks, forestry, and meat and poultry. The OIG review found ETA’s mean time to process applications at prevailing wage was 5 days more than the internal goal, and at the processing center it was 41 days over the internal goal. “These delays, particularly in seasonal industries, would have serious adverse effects on business owners and local economies,” the OIG said. As a result, ETA could not demonstrate whether it ensured that employers’ needs for temporary foreign labor were being met.

The delays potentially affected up to 148,000 positions and could have had adverse effects on business owners who rely on this labor, whether a foreign laborer or U.S. worker would fill the position, the OIG said. For fiscal year (FY) 2016, for example, the OIG identified about 100,000 positions potentially affected that were not processed timely. In addition, for FY 2017, the OIG found that about 48,000 positions were affected because ETA did not timely review 36 percent of the applications (133,985 positions total certified).

The OIG recommended that the Deputy Assistant Secretary for ETA develop policy to ensure that H-2B applications are processed timely, develop a method for tracking and reporting on processing timeliness for H-2B applications, and develop a staffing plan to address peak seasons for receipt of H-2B applications. The OIG noted that the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training stated that the agency has taken actions to address these recommendations. The OIG noted that “ETA disagreed with some of our conclusions; however, nothing in their response changed our report.”