Job ads, lawsuit show US companies discriminating against Americans

Some U.S.-based companies are discriminating against job-seeking American professionals and instead hiring job-hopping guest workers, including foreigners enrolled in colleges or holding H-1B visas.

The skewed hiring is visible in numerous online help-wanted ads, and in a legal settlement won this month by the Justice Department.

The ads use keywords — typically “OPT,” “CPT” or “H-1B” — to attract the attention of guest workers, while deterring applications by unemployed American professionals who normally search for conventional keywords, such as “software engineer,” “nurse,” “writer” or lawyer.”

“It’s discrimination,” said Donna Conroy, the executive director of Bright Future Jobs, a nonprofit trying to aid U.S. workers.

The underlying cause of the discrimination, she said, is that many U.S.-based immigrant entrepreneurs prefer to hire workers and foreign students from their home countries.

The problem is widespread, she said, because many of the discriminating companies are now doing work that was outsourced by the major companies that have laid off many Americans.

For more than a decade, companies such as Microsoft and Deloitte have been reducing full-time employees while outsourcing skilled work to so-called “body shops” that arrange short-term contracts with skilled experts.

Many of the “body shops” are owned by foreign companies or immigrant entrepreneurs. That’s a two-fer for big U.S. companies, who are also under pressure from federal diversity rules to steer work towards minorities, said Conroy.

The widespread discrimination by subcontractors will spur the growing controversy over the proposed immigration rewrite that is now being pushed by President Barack Obama, progressives and business groups.

Many business groups are lobbying to ensure the rewrite allows companies to hire additional guest workers for U.S.-based jobs.

But the economy has still not recovered from the government-boosted, decade-long real-estate bubble that burst in 2007. Many skilled professionals remain unemployed or have transferred to jobs that don’t use their skills.