H-1B News: Whistleblower Jack Palmer Goes After Infosys Again

Here are two bits of good news on the H-1B front, in which two prominent critics of that program, which steals jobs from Americans, enhance their game:

First, whistleblower Jack (Jay) Palmer sued Infosys, one of the largest of the Indian outsourcing firms and users (and abusers) of nonimmigrant programs, again. He already has one major, multi-million dollar victory against the large H-1B employer in his pocket, as the Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Second, the nation’s leading academic critic of the H-1B program, professor Norm Matloff of UC-Davis, has a new, improved, and I think more frequent, electronic newsletter on his favorite subject.

Palmer Sues. Infosys, based in Bangalore, India, is a company that uses the H-1B program to hire computer programmers and engineers (mostly from India) and then turns around and rents them out to American firms with programming needs. Many of the jobs it first fills in the United States are subsequently moved to India. All of this is highly detrimental to U.S. workers seeking those jobs.

Now, the H-1B program, with its worker-indenturing nature and its below-par wages is bad enough, but in addition to being a major user of that program, Infosys sought, quite illegally, to use the B-1 (visitor) visa to lower still further its wage costs.

It obtained these visas for its India-based workers on the grounds that they were coming to the United States to secure training or to attend conferences, both of which are legitimate activities. Then it sat them down at Infosys desks to work on Infosys contracts, while paying them in Indian money at Indian wage rates, all of which is contrary to the law.

Somewhere along the way, some Infosys manager decided that Palmer, an Infosys employee and apparently a middle manager, should help create the phony document trail needed to obtain the B-1 visas for the computer programmers. Palmer refused.

At this point Infosys began what only can be described as a continuing campaign to prove that the firm was not only greedy and lawless, but was stupid as well. Instead of noting Palmer’s reluctance to violate the immigration laws, tip-toeing away from his desk never to mention the subject again, and seeking a more pliable employee to create the lawless documents, the company confronted Palmer for failing to follow corporate decisions.

Eventually, without actually firing him, they took away his key to the office, sent him home, and gave him no work to do. Palmer must have sulked for a while, but started using his free time to blow the whistle on Infosys’ illegal actions with the B-1 visas.

There were ups and downs in the courts, but the eventual upshot was a major courtroom loss by Infosys; the firm wound up in a plea agreement with the federal government in which it promised not to violate the B-1 visas anymore and to pay the feds $34 million, according to the Wall Street Journal:

To settle federal allegations that it had engaged in visa fraud and kept inaccurate hiring records. It marks the largest immigration penalty ever levied against a company.

The government, because of the False Claims Act, then awarded Palmer millions of dollars for, in effect, successfully defending the Treasury, according to the Wall Street Journal. (B-1 visas are considerably cheaper than H-1B visas).

That was where things stood about a year ago. I learned at the time, from Palmer’s then-lawyer, Kenneth Mendelsohn of Birmingham, Ala., that Infosys had left him on the payroll even though it did not give him work to do.

Then, a little later, Infosys, not learning from its recent, court-ordered $34 million lesson in personnel management, started its second adventure in stupidity. It fired Palmer.

Now Palmer had clearly shown himself to be a staunch upholder of the law, a skilled whistleblower, someone who knew his way around the courts, and someone perfectly willing to take on the Infosys management. Why irritate him by taking him off the payroll? Why not give him something to do that did not relate to visas, some problems he could handle from his house? Maybe even give him a raise?

Why, not, in short, make every effort to keep him away from judges and the visa-abusing story away from the press? Infosys as an entity apparently knows how to manipulate computers, but not public opinion.

Palmer has sued as an individual this time, seeking monetary damages for Infosys’ treatment of him because of his whistle-blowing; the feds are not involved in this case. The chances are that Infosys will decide to offer him enough cash to quash the suit and the publicity; we shall see.

Infosys, as we have reported from time to time, has had much more trouble (all deserved) with the courts and with the press than other Indian outsourcing firms. At one point, one of its executives placed a “maximum experience” cap in a classified ad for a job, thus leading to a successful age-discrimination suit by a 50-plus New Jersey computer whiz.

More recently, a Wisconsin law firm, on behalf of a skilled-but-not-hired-by-Infosys U.S. citizen, filed a class action suit against the company’s hiring practices. That one is still under way. The file number in PACER, the federal courts electronic document system, is 314-cv-06122-MLC-TJB.

Matloff Writes. Meanwhile, Professor Matloff has given his newsletter, which usually relates to H-1B visas, a new name, Upon Closer Inspection. It is well worth following carefully.

Professor Matloff is the H-1B critic from central casting. He is a full professor of computer science and teaches at UC-Davis, a short drive from Silicon Valley, where many of his students are employed, so he knows the industry well. Further, he is the son of immigrant parents and his wife is from Asia, so he cannot be accused of anything but a pro-immigrant mind-set. And he writes well.

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