On August 20, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rendered a blow to employers interested in hiring J-1 physicians and potentially narrowing the job options for J-1 physicians. The court, in a decision in Kutty v. The United States Department of Labor, found that the employer in the case, which has been in the legal system since 1999, was required to pay both the H-1B legal fees and expenses, as well as the J-1 waiver legal fees and expenses, rendering employment of Foreign Medical Graduates even more expensive for employers.
While the decision specifically stated that the Court was not deciding that employers must pay the J-1 waiver legal fees and expenses as a blanket rule but rather limited the decision to the facts of this case, the decision does not bode well for physicians or their employers. The ruling of the court would, at present, apply only to J-1 waivers filed in the states under the jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which include Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee but it is feared this decision will have far reaching implications for J-1 physicians. As the various government agencies burden employers with ever greater expenses in hiring a J-1 physician, the reality is that employers , already facing physician shortages, will go without a physician at all if the expenses of putting a J-1 physician in place price the employer out of the market. Many J-1 physician employers are federally funded community health centers, whose budget will not include J-1 waiver legal fees and expenses, thus this large group of J-1 employers will simply go without doctors at all. This is a serious problem with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act and American citizens cannot obtain health care at community clinics and thus go without health care at all. We hope that the ruling in this decision is limited to the rather unusual facts of the case.