As usual, BALCA (Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals) decisions are very important for practitioners as they offer crucial insights into how to avoid some of the pitfalls in preparing and filing a labor certification application under Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) or into what arguments can be made in response to the unfortunate receipt of a PERM denial notice. BALCA recently issued some notable decisions.
In A Cut Above Ceramic Tile, the employer attested, on an ETA Form 9089 filed on January 8, 2007, that, as part of its domestic recruitment efforts for the position of Tile Setter, it placed a job order with the SWA in the area of intended employment from July 13 to August 12, 2006. On June 11, 2009, the DOL issued an audit notification, which included the request for a copy of the job order placed with the SWA downloaded from the SWA internet job listing site; a copy of the job order provided by the SWA; or other proof of publication from the SWA containing the content of the job order. As part of its audit response, the employer included a copy of its completed Employer Job Order Information Sheet from VaEmploy.Com, the SWA for the state of Virginia. Citing 656.20(b) as authority, the CO denied the PERM application based on the employer’s failure to provide proof of publication of the SWA job order containing the content of the job order, as requested in the audit notification letter. The CO found that the employer’s submission of the Employer Job Order Information Sheet did not show the final content of the job order as run by the SWA.
The Employer then filed a petition for en banc review which BALCA granted to resolve the issue of whether a CO may deny certification of a PERM application based on the employer’s failure to provide proof of the publication of the SWA job order. BALCA invited the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) to file an amicus brief which it did. There was a conflict between BALCA panels because, in another case, Mandy Donuts Corp., 2009-PER-481 (Jan. 7, 2011), a BALCA panel compared the PERM regulations at 656.17(e)(2)(i) on placement of the job order and the regulations at 656.17(e)(1)(i)(B)(3) and 656.17(e)(2)(ii)(C) on placement of a newspaper advertisement and pointed out that the PERM regulations for documentation of proof of newspaper advertisements specifically require the employer to provide copies of the newspaper pages in which the advertisement appeared or proof of publication furnished by the newspaper. The panel held that the PERM regulations only require “placement” of the job order for 30 days which is documented by the start and end dates entered on the PERM application.The en banc panel in A Cut Above Ceramic Tile agreed with the Mandy Donuts panel and held that the distinction in the regulations is clear. The drafters of the regulation could easily have included a requirement that employers provide proof of publication of the SWA job order. In fact, the regulations governing the placement of a job order for the H-2B temporary nonagricultural labor certification program, also administered by the Employment and Training Administration (“ETA”) specifically require that the employer maintain a copy of the SWA job order or other proof of publication containing the text of the job order. 656.15(e)(1). The en banc panel reasoned that the ETA intentionally drafted the H-2B and the PERM SWA job orders regulations differently. In fact the ETA specifically stated in its response to comments regarding the audit process, that the employer is only required to provide the start and end date of the job order on the application to document the job order has been placed and the gathering of additional information on the job order from the SWA will not be necessary. See ETA, Final Rule, Implementation of New System, Labor Certification Process for the Permanent Employment of Aliens in the United States [“PERM”], 69 Fed. Reg. 77326, 77359 (Dec. 24, 2004). Essentially, the CO does not have the power to request just any type of documentation and the employer’s application may only be denied under 656.20(b) when the absent documentation is required.
THE USE OF PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT FIRMS TO CONDUCT RECRUITMENT
Under 656.17(e)(1)(ii), when conducting recruitment for a professional position, the employer must conduct three additional recruitment steps to advertise the position. The employer may choose from ten forms of recruitment including the use of a private employment firm or placement agency. 656.17(e)(1)(ii)(F) states:
In Credit Suisse Securities, 2010-PER-103 (Oct. 19, 2010), BALCA rejected the employer’s argument that 656.17(f), requiring that advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals state the name of the employer and provide a description of the vacancy specific enough to apprise U.S. workers of the job opportunity, was not applicable to the additional recruitment steps for professional occupations, and held that the regulation in fact governs all forms of advertisement. However, not all the additional recruitment methods for professional positions readily lend themselves to these requirements. For instance, when recruiting through private employment firms, it makes no business sense to indicate the name of the employer because an applicant could then bypass the headhunter and apply directly to the employer. Indeed, in Credit Suisse Securities, BALCA acknowledged in note 7 that the requirements of 656.17(f) only applies to advertisements, and that it was not making a determination with respect to job fairs, on-campus recruiting, private employment firms and campus placement offices.In World Agape Mission Church, 2010-PER-01117 (Mar. 23, 2012), the employer conducted recruitment for the professional position of “Pastor (Associate)” recruiting through a private employment agency as one of the three additional recruitment steps for professional positions. The CO issued an audit notification and, as part of its response to the audit notification, the employer submitted a letter from the private employment agency certifying that the agency had checked its database for any qualified applicants and had posted the job posting online. The job posting listed the job title, salary information, a job description, experience and education requirements, and that the position was full-time. The job posting was identifiable by a job number. The CO argued that the employer’s name must be included in an advertisement to ensure that the results of an employer’s test of the labor market are legitimate. The CO cited 656.17(f)(1), requiring that advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation “name the employer.”BALCA noted its decision in Credit Suisse Securities but held that an advertisement placed by a private employment agency is different than one placed directly by the employer. BALCA referenced its decision in HSB Solomon, 2011-PER-2599 (Oct.25, 2011) that 656.17(f) does not apply to advertisements placed by private employment firms. However, World Agape Mission Church makes it clear that the employer still has a duty to recruit in good faith and to make the job opportunity clearly open to all U.S. workers even when using a private employment agency. Of particular note was the fact that the job posting provided applicants with sufficient information like the job title, job duties, and education/experience requirements, and even if it did not list the name of the employer, it listed a job number which matched the job number listed in the letter from the employment agency certifying its recruitment. This allowed the CO to match the listing to the agency’s advertisement even without the inclusion of the employer’s name in the posting.SUPERVISED RECRUITMENT
As the supervised recruitment train keeps barreling through, we have to keep on the lookout for any BALCA decisions to help guide us through the process. BALCA recently issued two decisions worth reading.In Kennametal, Inc., 2010-PER-01512 (Mar. 27, 2012), BALCA held that the employer had improperly rejected U.S. workers because it did not consider the possibility that certain applicants could become qualified after a reasonable period of on-the-job training. But most interestingly, BALCA held that the employer’s rejection of applicants for not possessing the requisite bachelor’s degree was unlawful and specifically listed examples of applicants who had an associates’ degree and 10 to 24 years of experience. BALCA held that because the employer indicated in its advertisements that it would “accept a combination of education, training and experience” (well-known to practitioners filing PERM applications as the Kellogg language based on Matter of Francis Kellogg, 94-INA-465 (Feb. 2, 1998) (en banc), the employer should have considered these applicants and interviewed them to further evaluate their skills. This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the DOL routinely requests that employers list the Kellogg language in the supervised recruitment advertisements even where it is not applicable. Now, employers have to be alert to the fact that the DOL could then use that same Kellogg language against them to argue that they unlawfully rejected U.S. workers.In JP Morgan Chase & Co, 2011-PER-00635, BALCA upheld the CO’s denial of the PERM application under supervised recruitment because the employer did not list the addresses of the U.S. worker applicants in the body of its recruitment report as required under the supervised recruitment regulations at 656.21(e)(3) despite the fact that the employer had submitted copies of all the resumes which listed the U.S. addresses of the applicants.