Employer faces lawsuit; how to avoid one

Wyndham Resort faces lawsuit

In its June 9, 2012 U.S. Edition, the Wall Street Journal reported that a group of Asians are suing a Wyndham Worldwide Corp. resort over their J-1 visa program. The suit claims that the J-1 Interns and Trainees worked as maids and short-order cooks, a violation of J-1 visa regulations. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of J-1 visa participants from Thailand, Vietnam and India and claims that they did not rotate through various departments as required by Regulations.

Five steps that lead to successful J-1 programs

While not enough is known about the case to fully judge its merits, one thing is clear: there is a group of disgruntled J-1 visa participants. So much so that they felt inclined to file a lawsuit. Successful programs and positive  experiences are not difficult to achieve. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Determine intent and needs
    When you property is interested in hosting international visa holders, get your team together and determine why they want participants from overseas. If they are simply filling seasonal or temporary positions, then consider such work visas as H2B or even the J-1 Summer Work Travel program. If there is a desire to hire foreign nationals for on-the-job training purposes, then the J-1 Trainee and Intern program may be a good option.

     

  2. Set proper expectations and ensure documentation
    Once you have decided that your property is ready to host international Trainees and Interns, partner with a reputable J-1 visa sponsor. The sponsor will inform you of the J-1 visa regulations and determine exactly what J-1 visa participants can and cannot do. The sponsor will also help ensure that a good balance exists between the trainees’ and interns’ learning opportunities and the contributions they make to your organization. Setting the proper expectation is key, both for your team as well as J-1 participants. Make sure all details are accurately documented on Form DS-7002, the “Training/ Internship Placement Plan”.

     

  3. Follow through on the DS-7002
    Next, make sure all department managers have a copy of form DS-7002 and that they stick to it. In some cases, communication between Human Resources and departments breaks down and J-1 participants stay in certain areas too long or they are placed in the wrong positions.

     

  4. Monitor programs
    Make sure you follow up with J-1 Trainees and Interns regularly to monitor progress and to make sure your managers are following the DS-7002.  The J-1 visa sponsor also has a regulatory obligation to monitor programs. Many do this through formal evaluations and simply by checking in with participants regularly.

     

  5. Communication is key
    Make sure that you create an environment where J-1 participants feel comfortable sharing any concerns with you. Many times, concerns are based on misunderstanding and can be easily resolved.

     

The lawsuit filed against Wyndham shows that employers and sponsors can still improve the quality of J-1 programs. Determining intent and setting proper expectations is only a start. Following through on the DS-7002 and monitoring programs is paramount to program success. There is never a need for disgruntled J-1s, let alone a lawsuit.

2 Responses to “Employer faces lawsuit; how to avoid one

  • Thought your article was fairly clear as a newbie to this area I would have loved to know what the term J-1 means. I would have also liked an example of a group that is doing a fantastic job compared against a group that Wyndham that is leaving themselves open to a lawsuit. I understand Wyndham case you don’t have all the details but is there an organization where you do?

    Other than that I think I have a fairly good idea that when running a program forethought needs to be put into it just like any other program. Still I would love to see how the best do it.

    • Alex, thank you for your comments. As mentioned, working with a reputable J-1 visa program sponsor is important. They will be able to share best practices.