The Department of Labor (DOL) extended the implementation period of the new wage calculations for H-2B visa holders from September 30, 2011 to November 30, 2011. According to the DOL, “The delay will permit the various courts involved in ongoing litigation surrounding the implementation of the rule to determine the appropriate venue for the resolution of all claims and allow the department to avoid the possibility of administering the H-2B program under potentially conflicting court orders.”

The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) filed suit on September 21 in federal court to stop the implementation of unwarranted and unjustifiable wage increases proposed by the DOL for certain foreign workers. Its suit is one of two lawsuits that have been filed to halt the DOL’s revised wage rule for the H-2B program.

“PLANET is pleased with this development and is optimistic that Congress will now have additional time to identify strategies for resolving this issue so that our members can continue to serve their clients and stay in business,” said PLANET President Gerald J. Grossi, Landscape Industry Certified Technician.

In addition, an amendment to delay the rule for one year, offered by Sens. Mikulski, Landrieu, Graham, Collins, and Hutchison, was adopted as part of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill.

PLANET will continue both efforts on the Hill and in the courts to halt the rule as the temporary extension of the implementation date still leaves many businesses vulnerable and many questions yet unanswered for existing H-2B workers and potential new hires. Many of PLANET’s members who use the H-2B program report that they would be significantly impacted by the rule, where estimates of required wage increases are anywhere from 20.3 percent to 78.1 percent. The average increase in hourly wage costs as a result of the rule is 40 percent. Members fear that the final rule will stunt, if not reverse, the growth of PLANET’s H-2B members’ businesses and the career opportunities of their year-round U.S. workers.

The H-2B worker program was created in 1987 as amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act. It provides nonimmigrant alien labor for nonagricultural employers in the United States when U.S. workers are not available.