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'Massive' visa fraud alleged in lawsuit against Indian firm

Sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by two women, one who worked in human resources, includes allegations of H-1B fraud

April 4, 2012 05:03 PM ET

Computerworld - A former human resources manager at Larsen & Toubro InfoTech Limited Inc., a leading India-based IT services firm, accused the company of visa fraud in a complaint filed this week in a federal court in New Jersey.

Mumbai-based Larsen & Toubro is a major user of H-1B visas, ranking fifth last year on the list of largest visa users. The company had 1,608 visa approvals in 2011, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The former employee, Nanda Pai, also accuses the company of sexual discrimination, and alleges sexist behavior by some of its employees in the suit.

Pai's lawsuit joins a class action lawsuit filed earlier by another female ex-employee with a similar discrimination allegation. The class action suit seeks "not less than $100 million."

Pai's job in human resources at Larsen & Toubro in New Jersey adds a new dimension to this case.

In her role as human resources manager, Pai was required to help process visa-related documents. She alleges that immigration fraud "appeared to be rampant" at the company, according to the lawsuit.

This lawsuit is similar to one filed against another major Indian firm, Infosy.

In that suit, former employee Jay Palmer alleged that the firm committed visa fraud. Palmer charged that when he refused to participate in the alleged fraud, he was harassed, and faced racial taunts and even death threats.

The details of his lawsuit caught Washington's attention, and Infosys is now facing a federal grand jury probe over its visa practices while Palmer's civil case continues.

A Larsen & Toubro spokesman reached in Mumbai Tuesday said the company isn't commenting on pending litigation.

Pai alleges that her signature was forged on various visa-related documents, and when she asked about the forgeries, "she was advised to stay silent."

Pai's attorney, Krishnan Chittur in New York, said the visa issues are "extremely important" to the discrimination lawsuit.

"You begin with the proposition that they don't like women - they didn't like pregnant women," said Chittur, of the company.

When Pai informed the company in 2009 that she was pregnant, her supervisors "substantially increased her workload so that she had to put in grueling 18 hour workdays on a regular basis."

When Pai complained about the added workload her managers "blamed her for being weak," something they attributed to her pregnancy "and bluntly told her" to quit, the lawsuit alleges.

Chittur said the signature forgeries, as well other visa practices, had Pai worried that she was being set up to be the fall person.

Chittur said Pai faced potentially terrifying prospects because of what was occurring. "The level of anxiety and tension can only be imagined," he said.

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