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U.S. sets code rewrite on job ads seeking H-1B, OPT workers

Dice's parent company, DHI Group, has reached a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over job ads that allegedly favored foreign workers.

The parent company of Dice, a job site for technology professionals, has reached an agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over job ads the government alleged favored foreign workers, such as H-1B workers and visiting students, in its optional practical training (OPT) program. The ads, the government claimed, discriminated against U.S. workers.

Under the voluntary agreement, DHI Group Inc., which owns and operates Dice, will use technology to scrape or remove "potentially discriminatory keywords such as 'OPT,' 'H-1B' or 'visa' that appears near the words 'only' or 'must' in its customer's new job postings."

DHI also agreed to revise its job posting guidance to customers to include instructions to avoid language such as "H-1Bs only" or "H-1Bs and OPT preferred." International students with an F-1 visa can work in the U.S. for a specified period through the OPT program.

DHI will "take steps to prevent its customers from posting discriminatory job advertisements," the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated Monday.

The EEOC said the agreement "resolves multiple charges of discrimination" and ends an investigation that began with a complaint. The agency said it had "determined it had reasonable cause to believe DHI violated Title VII when some of its customers posted positions on that excluded those of American national origin, thereby deterring a class of workers from applying."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from publishing an employment notice that indicates a preference or limitation based on national origin."

In a statement, DHI said it "is pleased to work with the EEOC to take reasonable steps to prevent customers from making job postings on DHI's website that may have the effect of excluding those individuals of American national origin. "

DHI's statement continued, "Although DHI disputes the claims brought against it by the EEOC related to this matter, in a good faith effort to deter potentially discriminatory job postings by its customers, DHI and the EEOC were able to agree on reasonable terms to resolve this matter to avoid the substantial time and expense of protracted litigation."

Slap on wrist

Ron Hira, an associate professor of political science at Howard University, who has testified before Congress on problems with the H-1B visa program, said, "This penalty can only be interpreted as a slap on the wrist that accomplishes nothing for the workers who are being harmed by such practices."

This penalty can only be interpreted as a slap on the wrist.
Ron HiraAssociate professor of political science, Howard University

Hira said that penalties "must be large enough to deter future bad behavior by Dice and its customers. This one clearly is not."

Hira also questioned the use of technology to review ads. "It is strange to me that Dice does not require one of its human employees to review every job posting," he said. "Isn't employment discrimination important enough to have an actual person review every job ad?"

The EEOC investigation into DHI job ads stems from a complaint from an individual who has since died. DHI agreed to compensate the estate of the original complainant. The amount was not disclosed.

"We appreciate DHI's willingness to take steps to prevent future job postings on its site that discriminate against national origin," said Chelsae J. Ford, systemic coordinator for the EEOC's Miami District, in a statement. "DHI's use of programming to 'scrape' for potentially discriminatory postings illustrates a beneficial use of artificial intelligence in combatting employment discrimination."

Complaints about job ads favoring H-1B workers on Dice go back over a decade. In 2012, Bright Future Jobs, an advocacy group, alleged that many job ads posted by employers were "peppered with an alphabet soup of visa terms to attract foreign citizens" and designed to discourage U.S. workers.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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