As published in the Immigration Daily on April 16, 2020
Setting the Coronavirus Record Straight for East Coast Infections as European and not Asian is Important
In our article of March 20, 2020, “Repeatedly Calling It a Chinese Virus Is Racist and a Deflection of Blame,” we asked that President Trump stop calling the coronavirus a Chinese virus as that was inflaming hatred towards Asians in a country with a history of prejudice, violence, and exclusion towards Chinese. There are now a plethora of articles in newspapers with detailed descriptions of discriminatory and violent acts against Asians including one by the Anti-Defamation League detailing 44+ reported incidents through April. Mr. Trump should be reminded that his assignation of blame will turn many Asian-Americans against him when it comes time to vote in November. He has a chance, however, to now change the narrative and remove most of the stigma from Asian-Americans. Recent studies by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine have identified the coronavirus laying waste to the country from the East Coast as originating in Europe through genetic analysis of viral samples. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that “Given the travel and the air traffic from anywhere in Italy, but also particularly northern Italy, it’s just not surprising that unfortunately and inadvertently New York was seeded before they really knew what was going on.” While the coronavirus originated in China, it is now officially a misnomer to call it a Chinese virus where the major number of infections and deaths in the U.S. originated from Europe. As the number of deaths continues to mount in this country, Mr. Trump’s past insistence on referring to the virus as Chinese has even more significance as it continues to resonate and appeal to the dark nature of people to strike out, especially those who have lost someone close. This country’s Asians are a ready target being perceived as vulnerable, non-violent, and easily identified by the color of their skin. Europeans on the other hand generally do not stand out except when they speak and there is not the ingrained prejudice against them as with the Chinese. So since Mr. Trump inadvertently or purposefully touched off a flame of resentment that burns to this day, we believe that he owes it to the Asian communities in the United States to make a clarification now.
Why not just excuse the LCA posting requirement for those working from home at this time?
In the Covid-19 related FAQs Rounds 1and 3 by the Department of Labor, the Department made clear that the Labor Condition Application (LCA) worksite notice would still have to be posted for H-1B workers remotely working from home. In the first FAQ of March 20, 2020, the Department said that where workers perform the work elsewhere in the same area of intended employment, the employer must provide either electronic or hardcopy notice at the new worksite locations meeting the content requirements for 10 calendar days unless direct notice is provided such as an email notice. It said that if the employer could not provide a hardcopy notice of the LCA filing due to the pandemic, the regulations allow electronic notice by any means ordinarily used to communicate about job vacancies to employees in the occupational classification in the area of intended employment, and such could include the employer’s website, electronic newsletter, intranet or email – that email notification is only required once and does not have to be provided for 10 calendar days. The FAQ also extended the time that such a notice would be considered timely to no later than 30 days after the worker begins work at the new worksite locations (normally notice is required to be posted prior to the worker moving on to the new site). In the third FAQ of April 9, 2020 (Second FAQ related to H-2A visas), the Department made four points advancing and not retreating from the notice requirement during this time of disease. 1.) It expanded on employer requirements for situations that did not involve remote employment in the area of intended employment, and instead involved short-term placements of 30 or 60 days outside the area – that the employer could place the H-1B worker for up to 30 workdays in one year and up to 60 days if the person’s place of residence was inside the area of intended employment so long as the employer was in compliance with wages, working conditions, strike requirements, and notice for worksites covered by the approved LCA. There would also have to be no strike or lockout at the short-term placement location; and the employer would have to pay lodging costs, costs of travel, meals and expenses for both workdays and non-workdays.; 2.) It defined the area of intended employment as within normal commuting distance to the place of employment with any place within the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) deemed to be within normal commuting distance even if it crossed state lines; 3.) It instructed that if an employer instead filed a new LCA for work sites outside the area of intended employment or materially changed the terms and conditions of employment, it would need to file an amended or new H-1B with U.S.C.I.S.; and 4.) It admonished that the employer’s treatment of H-1B personnel must not adversely affect the working conditions of similarly employed US workers and the employer had to offer the same flexibility to US workers similarly employed that it was offering to H-1B workers including telework from home within the area of intended employment or where the employer was offering to move H-1B employees outside of that area.
Although there is great interest in protecting the American job market, the insistence on maintaining the same notice requirements for new locations in the current time of crisis seems strained and the Department may still wish to reconsider its position. Where working from home is involved, one of the options is for the employer to post the notices at the H-1B holder’s house or apartment for 10 days. Is there any practical use in doing so where the two notices will likely only be seen by the employee, and perhaps spouse, children, and family dog if they exist? There is also the problem of employers in nonessential businesses even being able to go into their offices where files are stored to retrieve employee information or work on the notification procedures much less updating the public access package, especially when they are supposed to be sheltering in place in most parts of the country. As of the time of this writing, only five states, Arkansas, the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska are not under stay-at-home orders. Common sense seems to dictate a waiving of requirements where attempting to comply places those in danger who must leave home to go to their businesses.