The U.S. Labor Department will not investigate allegations that Southern California Edison Co. abused a popular visa program for skilled foreign workers, according to senators who requested the probe.
A top Labor official said an investigation could not be opened because there was no complaint from someone adversely affected by the use of the H-1B visas and no reasonable cause to believe the company violated the rules governing the visas.
The Labor Department "has not received a complaint from an aggrieved party or a credible source, and other avenues for investigation are not appropriate at this time," M. Patricia Smith, the department's solicitor, said in a letter dated Tuesday.
The letter was sent to Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who had joined with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and a bipartisan group of eight other senators this month in asking the Obama administration to look into allegations that Edison was using the visas to hire foreigners to replace American workers.
"We will continue pressing the administration to use its legal authority to stop the displacement of American workers wherever possible and to conduct a thorough investigation of responsible parties," Durbin and Sessions said Thursday.
They noted that they were awaiting responses to requests for an inquiry from officials at Justice and Homeland Security departments.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that Edison's workers said they were forced to train foreign replacements as the company laid off hundreds of employees.
Edison said it was not hiring foreign workers to replace U.S. employees and that the company "abides by the law." A company spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Labor Department's decision.
Smith said in the letter that there were specific guidelines in the law about when the department could investigate alleged H-1B abuses.
Durbin and Sessions said the response "confirms that companies can often hire H-1B guest workers to replace American workers without fear of reprisal."
Congress needs to change the law "to clearly prohibit replacing American workers with H-1B visa workers," the senators said.