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Sun confirms probe of alleged layoff bias

Federal regulators are looking into claims that Sun Microsystems discriminated against US workers in favour of foreign workers on temporary visas during the company's November layoffs.

Sun spokeswoman Diane Carlini confirmed that the preliminary investigations by the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Justice began after a complaint filed in April by former Sun employee Guy Santiglia.

Carlini said Santiglia, an engineer who was one of 3,900 workers laid off in October, filed a complaint with the two agencies alleging that he and others were laid off by Sun, which then hired foreign workers on a non-immigrant, working professional visa known as the H-1B visa, in order to save money. He claimed that foreign workers would be paid less than US workers.

Carlini said Santiglia's claims are without merit. She said Sun's decision to hire or lay off workers is based solely on a person's qualifications for a particular job, not his residency status. She said only 5% of Sun's employees held H-1B visas.

"Santiglia claims he should have been given another job because he is a US citizen," she said. "If he had the necessary skills, he would have been offered another job."

Carlini said Sun does not break out employees' pay rates based on their status as residents.

In 2000, the US Congress raised the cap for H-1B visas because of a shortage of technical workers. Santiglia claimed the program allows companies such as Sun to hire foreign workers and pay them less than their US counterparts.

Neither Santiglia nor a spokesman for the Justice Department could be reached for comment. A Labor Department spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny an investigation.

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