Exploited Pinoy tech workers win $160K in back wages

FREMONT, Calif. – Fremont tech firm Bitmicro Networks will pay over $160,000 in back wages to 18 Filipino engineers after a U.S. Department of Labor Investigation found them to be illegally paid.

The Pinoy engineers, who have since returned to the Philippines, worked an average of 57 hours per week and received as little as $1.66 per hour, violating the Fair Labor Standard Act.

“It’s hard to say why anyone would think its ok to pay a $1.60 per hour to folks while they’re working here in the United States,” Assistant Director of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Labor Department Michael Eastwood said. “I can’t say why this particular company thought that was a good idea to pay people so little while working in one of the richest countries and parts of the country in the world. It really is quite shocking.”

Unfortunately, this case of wage theft among foreign workers is not an isolated incident.

Tech companies like Electronics For Imaging and Bloom Energy Corp. have been investigated by the Labor Department for improperly paying their workers.

“EFI was bringing in folks from India. Bloom Energy was bringing in folks from Mexico. So this is just within the last couple of years where we have seen this emerging pattern of companies using the B-1 visa to bring people in and not pay them not even federal minimum wage, “ Eastwood said. “We’re talking a $1-$2 an hour for people working here in Silicon Valley, very egregious violations.”

Eastwood encourages all workers to get in contact with the Labor Department if they feel their rights are being violated.

He assures confidentiality and notes that there are publications and investigators who can assist in Tagalog.

“So you may be an undocumented worker who doesn’t have papers but that doesn’t mean you could be abused and not be paid minimum wage and overtime,” Eastwood said.

A spokesperson for Bitmicro could not be reached for comment.

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