H-1B whistleblower files new federal lawsuit

Infosys is facing a second federal lawsuit that cites Sarbanes-Oxley's whistleblower protections

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H-1B whistleblower Jay Palmer filed a civil lawsuit Thursday against Infosys, in another bid for damages over allegations of ill-treatment. It is Palmer's second attack in federal court, but it takes a new approach by citing the whistleblower protections in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

“I am not going away in this matter, the United States has laws to protect whistleblowers and there are several other remedies I have not presented,” said Palmer. “Once you help the government, as I did, a person has rights.”

Palmer was an employee of Infosys when he triggered a federal investigation into that company's use of B-1 visas, or visitor visas, for work that requires an H-1B visa. Infosys is an India-based IT offshore outsourcing company and one of the largest users of H-1B visas.

The investigation resulted in a $34 million settlement   last year with the U.S. by Infosys, the largest work visa-related settlement of its kind. In settling the lawsuit with the government, Infosys denied any wrongdoing.

Palmer, meanwhile, has been seeking justice for himself. He alleged that he was threatened and harassed for bringing this concern about Infosys' visa use to authorities. Those allegations were first made in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Alabama, Palmer's home state. Although the U.S. judge who heard the case said he was troubled by Palmer's allegations, he dismissed the case in 2012, citing the limits of "at will" employment law in Alabama.

Palmer's new lawsuit cites the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law that established a series of financial reforms following the collapse of Enron, and other major companies. The suit also cites the anti-retaliation provisions of the False Claims Act, a law used in government fraud cases.

Last summer, Palmer filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, citing Sarbanes Oxley. It was the first step in filing the federal lawsuit.

In the 24-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, Palmer renews the allegations made in the earlier case, namely that Infosys "punished" him by "blacklisting him, putting him on leave, denying him work, denying him promotions and bonuses, eventually demanding his resignation and denying him re-hire."

Palmer also alleges that he "received multiple death threats" related to his complaint about the visa use.

The lawsuit seeks "to fully, fairly and justly compensate [Palmer] for his injuries, damages and loss." It does not specify an amount.

Infosys in a statement said:  “Palmer's current complaint in the United States District Court in New Jersey is a repetition of issues that were tried and dismissed by a federal court in 2012. Palmer resigned in 2013 November and released the company from the charges he has alleged in the complaint. We believe this is without any legal merit and will vigorously defend this complaint. We expect the issue to be resolved at the earliest.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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