According to U.S. Department of Labor rules, an employee with the visa who is furloughed still must be paid by the employer, who can seek a waiver.
In order to receive an H-1B visa, an employer must show there are no Americans able to do the work, according to federal rules.
For each visa, the University System entered into a three-way contract with the employee and federal government and agreed on salary, Millsaps said. The contract stipulates that the pay will not be reduced, he said.
Millsaps said the system had three choices: pay the application fees to change the contracts; furlough employees without a waiver and pay a fine; or exempt them from unpaid leave.
“If the goal is to reduce expenses, the last option is the one that reduces expenses the most,” he said.
There’s been little discord over the exemptions, said Stuart Ivy, president of the UGA Staff Council, which advocates for the college’s faculty and staff members.
“There has been some discussion, but once the reasons are explained, their decision makes sense,” Ivy said.
Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered all state employees to take three furlough days by the end of 2009 as part of a series of budget cuts to overcome a revenue shortfall.
Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Perdue, said each agency has the flexibility to manage furloughs and budget cuts. He said the University System was taking a reasonable approach.
The Board of Regents has required six furlough days. Employees must take at least three by the end of the calendar year and the remainder by the end of the fiscal year, June 2010. Each campus can decide when employees take furloughs, but local leaders cannot cancel classes.
Another requirement is that the nearly 3,200 employees who make less than $23,600 a year are exempt.