On March 18, 2011 the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the H-2B program temporary guest worker program. The H-2B program is used by members of the horse industry, principally horse trainers and owners who cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs at racetracks, horse shows, fairs and in similar non-agricultural activities.
In January 2009 a final rule governing the H-2B program went into effect. That rule made major changes to the H-2B program by implementing an "attestation-based" labor process in place of the previous "labor certification" process. This change among others was intended to make the H-2B program more usable and efficient while still providing protections for American and foreign workers.
The Obama Administration does not believe the 2009 rule provides adequate protections for American or foreign workers and has begun a new rule making process.
The proposed rule if adopted would make significant changes to the H-2B program and would roll back many of the provisions of the 2009 rule. The proposed rule would:
• Require employers to provide documentation that they have taken appropriate steps to recruit U.S. workers, rather than permitting employers to attest to such compliance.
• Reinstate the role of state workforce agencies in providing expertise on local labor market conditions and recruitment patterns.
• Increase the amount of time employers must try to recruit U.S. workers.
• Extend H-2B program benefits to workers employed alongside those H-2B workers such as reimbursement of transportation costs and other benefits.
• Give the DOL's Wage and Hour Division independent debarment authority.
• Create a national job registry for all H-2B job postings.
• Prohibit, job contractors from using the program.
There is a 60 day comment period for the proposed rule. Comments will be due by May 17, 2011. The complete rule can be viewed by visiting the regulations.gov web page.
The American Horse Council is currently reviewing the proposed rule and will be submitting comments to the DOL.