In what could be a landmark ruling, a New York federal court recently held that foreign nationals who were denied proper compensation can prove their eligibility to participate in a class action settlement by means of temporary U.S. visas.

A group of temporary foreign workers employed by TruGreen Landcare LLC alleged that from 2000 to 2009, the company forced them to pay for the costs of their recruitment, processing, visas, transportation to the United States, and travel to work sites. They claimed that the TruGreen’s failure to reimburse them was a violation of minimum wage laws under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

According to reports from Law360 (subscription required), the parties agreed to a $1.2 million settlement to end the litigation, but TruGreen sought to allow only workers whose names appeared on its payroll records or who could provide a pay stub to participate in the settlement. The plaintiffs argued that H-2B visas were sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they worked for the company during the relevant time period.

The federal court’s decision opened the door to approximately 150 former employees who can provide visas that name TruGreen as their employer.

Wage theft and unlawful compensation practices are all too common in this country, and affect U.S. citizens and resident aliens alike.  All non-exempt employees, including temporary foreign workers, are entitled to be paid fairly, including reimbursement for certain work-related expenses, in compliance with state and federal labor laws. The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’ Employment Litigation Group have handled hundreds of wage and overtime claims, and are ready to speak with you about any suspicions you have about unfair and unlawful withholdings – contact us today.