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Lawsuit against Infosys turns light on B-1 visa

B-1 'visitor' visa may be playing an increasing role in the IT industry, according to the suit

March 17, 2011 11:27 AM ET

Computerworld - Indian software giant Infosys Technologies has been sued by an employee who says he refused to help the outsourcer get temporary B-1 visas for some workers.

To date, the B-1 visa hasn't played a prominent role in the long-running H-1B visa debate, but its role may change due to the lawsuit filed by Jack 'Jay' Palmer, an Infosys employee since 2008.

B1 business visas are intended for short-term uses, such as consulting with business associates, attending a business convention, settling an estate, negotiating a contract, or to install, service and repair commercial and industrial machinery.

According to B-1 visa rules, the holder can't be paid by a U.S. employer, and immigration attorneys note that it isn't intended to be used in ways that are similar to the H-1B visa. That's where Palmer's lawsuit comes in.

According to the lawsuit, Palmer, a principal consultant for the Infosys, attended a meeting in Bangalore in March, 2010 where Infosys management discussed ways "to 'creatively' get around the H-1B limitations."

The lawsuit, filed late last month, alleges that Infosys was sending workers holding B-1 visa to customer sites. Unlike H-1B visa rules, holders of B-1 visas are paid by the foreign entity and federal and state income taxes aren't withheld. Among the claims in the lawsuit, therefore, is that customers were overbilled for labor costs for these employees.

When Palmer was asked to write a letter stating "that the employee was coming to the United States for meetings rather than to work at a job," he contacted Infosys' HR department which "confirmed that Infosys' foreign employees could not work in the United States on B-1 visas."

Palmer refused to write the letter.

Following his refusal, Palmer contends that he was threatened and harassed, receiving telephone "calls just hoping he'd die, 'you need to keep your mouth shut and leave us alone' - stuff of that nature," said his attorney, Kenneth Mendelsohn, who's based in Montgomery, Ala. The lawsuit also says he has had to "endure racial taunts or slurs, including being called 'a stupid American' and criticized for being a Christian."

There were also issues with pay, expense reimbursement and hours alleged in the lawsuit. Palmer also charged that the company failed to act on his complaint to its internal whistleblower team.

Palmer, an Alabama resident, filed the lawsuit in Lowndes County Circuit Court in the state. According to his resume, Palmer's job at Infosys involves account and program management and he received the "prestigious Infosys Actionize" award in second quarter of 2010. He continues to work for Infosys.

Mendelsohn said that authorities have been told about the threats, though he declined to disclose the identity of the agencies that were contacted. He is still awaiting Infosys' response.



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