November 3, 2014
A second lawsuit has been filed against Infosys Ltd. by the previous whistleblower, Jack Palmer, whose actions set off an investigation of the company’s visa practices. The current lawsuit alleges wrongful termination and is requesting damages as a result of the events. Infosys, a Bangalore-based, denies all claims against them.
Palmer originally filed a lawsuit against Infosys in 2012. The suit was dismissed by a US district judge. Palmer is now seeking compensation based on his termination, which he believes occurred as a result of his whistleblowing actions. Palmer is a US national and was employed by Infosys in Alabama. He is expected to receive up to $8,000,000 from the settlement amount as reward for bringing the transgression to the attention of US authorities.
The original lawsuit filed by Palmer was the second of two filed against Infosys for visa violations. Palmer’s lawsuit asserted Infosys was deliberately flouting visa rules to facilitate visits of its Indian employees on short-term B1 visas.
US authorities have been investigating Infosys and the company’s use of visas since 2011. In 2013 the company paid $34 million to settle accusations related to its practice of transporting workers to the United States to work on temporary visas, a common practice among Indian firms. In 2012, Infosys settled a similar lawsuit filed by an Indian employee, Satya Dev Tripuranenei.
Tripuranenei, a former Infosys account manager, filed a lawsuit against the company in US district court for the northern district of California. Tripuraneni was a five year employee of Infosys and claimed he was harassed after blowing the whistle on the company’s misuse of US visas.
Infosys denies all allegations associated with both lawsuits. A spokesperson for the company, Sukanya Ghosh, stated the company was investigating all claims, but denies any allegations or assertions that corporate policy encourages evasion of the law in connection with the B-1 Visa program. The company also denies retaliating against employees for whistleblowing or drawing any attention to issues with the visa program. Infosys has launched a comprehensive investigation that continues today.
The lawsuit filed by Tripuraneni alleged that Infosys was using fraudulent billing practices related to workers from India. There were also accusations that clients were charged for taxes that went beyond the actual amount owed.
Employment visas, especially those related to Indian IT service companies, are a hot issue in the United States. Some have used them as a political hot button, drawing attention to misuses of the visas for non-citizen employees.
B-1 visas are used by companies to send their employees to the United States for short-term business purposes, including consulting, settling an estate, negotiating contracts, participating in short-term training, or traveling for a convention or conference.
To be eligible for a B-1 visa, the employee must demonstrate he or she will be in the United States for business purposes, have the funds to cover the expenses of the trip, plan to remain for only a specific, limited period of time, and be a resident outside of the United States with no intent to abandon ties with that country. B-1 visas are typically granted for one to six months, with the possibility of extending it another six months if necessary.
The Infosys incident is considered unusual in the Indian business community. Most private individuals have no experience exposing large establishments in India. It is only because of the stringent American laws that employees felt comfortable coming forward with allegations. There is currently no legal protection for individuals in India to report wrongdoing, despite a significant track record with corporate corruption.
This appears to be changing, but under current laws, only cases pertaining to government establishments or where substantial public money is involved offer legal protection. The hope is that Palmer’s cases against Infosys, as well as the others, will result in more people feeling safe to come forward with information.