Renton dentist Bobby Virk drew some negative attention to his campaign for state representative of the 11th District during his recent troubles with the U.S. Labor Department. Virk, who also goes by Mahadeep Virk, was born in the Punjab region of India to a family of farmers and a military officer. He moved to the United States in 1995.
His campaign earned an endorsement from many notable Democrats. With the support of the Indian American community, Virk outraised other legislative campaigns by $202,000 in April. His success was soon overshadowed by an accusation from Virk’s business partner and family friend, Oshmi Dutta, after a business dispute led Dutta to report that Virk violated the rules surrounding the foreign H-1B guest-worker visa program.
In 2002, Virk hired Dutta under the H-1B visa program, which required Virk to employ Dutta and provide him wages of at least $108,000 a year. However, in a different arrangement, Dutta was assigned to run the dental clinics and received a share of the revenue instead of being paid regular wages, as required by the rules of the program.
In 2005, Dutta and Virk had a dispute over the business. Dutta claimed that he was not being properly paid as required under the H-1B program. He filed a complaint with the Labor Department. According to Virk’s attorneys, other than the amount that Virk was required to pay under H-1B rules, Dutta received an additional $143,000 through the business partnership.
An investigation by the Labor Department concluded that Virk failed to pay regular wages to Dutta as required by the H-1B rules. It also concluded that Virk failed to cooperate with the investigation by submitting payroll records.
Virk’s dental practice is suspended from participating in the H-1B guest-worker visa program, according to the Labor Department. H-1B visas allow U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers with specific skills. The rules that apply to participating businesses are closely regulated.
Virk admitted to the mistake and claimed that he was misled by Dutta. As a result of a federal court settlement, Virk agreed to pay the government more than $44,000 in back wages and civil penalties.
A federal judge significantly reduced the amount Virk would have to pay for back wages, saying that he did not believe Dutta was owed the $300,000 determined by the Labor Department. Virk was fined $4,250 and agreed to pay just over $40,000, the amount that matches the payroll taxes he would have covered for Dutta had he paid him as an employee. Virk’s company was suspended from the H-1B program for two years, from September 2010 to September 2012.
In a statement released by his campaign, Virk said he learned valuable lessons about how to handle the very nebulous and unclear immigration laws in this country, and not to mix business with friendship. (end)
Information from The Seattle Times.