Tech firms faking job ads to avoid hiring US workers?

Companies like Hewlett Packard, Cisco, and others are being accused of skirting federal laws to hire foreign workers while laying off American geeks. Cringely labors to uncover the truth.

Ask the Programmers Guild that question, and their answer would be an emphatic "yes!" The US-based organization has accused Hewlett Packard of advertising for jobs it has no intention of filling -- at least with US citizens -- on the Idaho Department of Labor Web site.

Federal regulations require US corporations that wish to request a green card for a foreign worker to demonstrate that no qualified US workers are available to fill the job. So, the argument goes, HP is allegedly posting fake jobs online and in newspapers to fulfill the requirements of Uncle Sam's Program Electronic Review Management process. Resumes come in, Americans get winnowed out, and the PERM job goes to Enrique or Sanjay or Vladimir.

The key bit of evidence: Job applications are directed not to HP's normal human resources department but to one of its immigration specialists.

A Hewlett Packard spokesperson responded thusly:

The programmer's guild website and press release on HP is inaccurate and misleading. The job notices that were on the Idaho state job bank last week appeared in error. We are working with the Idaho Department of Labor to assure such errors do not occur in the future. HP has no plans to substitute American workers with foreign nationals for these roles.

HP is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against any workers, but always seeks to hire the best and the brightest and that includes a small percentage (2-3 percent) of foreign nationals.

Blogger (and recently downsized HP engineer) Clayton Cramer notes that HP said those Idaho job postings were a mistake and would be taken down. Curiously, he adds, very similar ads for job at HP appeared on the site a few days later.

Programmers Guild president Kim Berry says companies prefer H-1B workers because foreign workers' options are limited: They aren't allowed to change jobs for several years, they may be forced to work overtime without pay, and they're less likely to question management decisions. "It's a form of indentured servitude," he says.

The Guild isn't the only group squawking about this. Blogger James Fulford has accused HP of laying off older Americans and then posting ads for jobs that are pretty much identical to the ones they just "eliminated." The motive: to replace older, better paid employees with younger, cheaper PERM employees.

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