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Infosys, an Indian IT software and services company with offices throughout the world, has been accused of discriminating against American job applicants. One Infosys employee who raised concerns about the company’s hiring practices was repeatedly called a “stupid American,” the lawsuit states.
Infosys has about 15,000 employees in the US “and approximately 90 percent of these employees are of South Asian descent (including individuals of Indian, Nepalese, and Bangladeshi descent),” the lawsuit states.
Infosys allegedly achieved this ratio “by directly discriminating against individuals who are not of South Asian decent in hiring, by abusing the H-1B visa process to bring workers of South Asian descent into the country rather than hiring qualified individuals already in the United States, and by abusing the B-1 visa system to bring workers of South Asian descent into the United States to perform work not allowed by their visa status rather than hiring individuals already in the United States to perform the work.” Infosys “used B-1 visa holders because they could be paid considerably lower wages than other workers including American-born workers,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in US District Court in Eastern Wisconsin by Brenda Koehler, an IT professional. In April 2012, she applied for a job as “Lead VMware/Windows Administrator” at Infosys. Koehler now alleges several violations of the Civil Rights Act.
The suit claims Koehler got an interview, but Infosys officials incorrectly claimed she had no experience with Microsoft’s Active Directory technology and ended up hiring a person from Bangladesh.
Koehler’s suit attempts to establish a pattern of discrimination by citing the experiences of former Infosys employee Jay Palmer, described as a whistleblower who brought attention to the company’s hiring practices.
“While working on the assignment at Vinings, Georgia in December 2008, Infosys employee-whistleblower Jay Palmer claims that another Infosys employee wrote “Americans cost $,” and “No Americans/Christians” on a whiteboard,” the lawsuit states.
After Palmer started complaining, he received two telephone calls in which the caller said, “Why are you doing this, you stupid American, we have been good to you,” the lawsuit states. Such messages allegedly continued in 2011, including a typewritten note that said, “Just leave your [sic] not wanted here hope your journey brings you death stupid american,” and an e-mail that said, “if you make cause for us to sent [sic] back to india [sic] we will destroy you and your family.”
Palmer reported the harassment, “but Infosys did not take significant steps to investigate or prevent future issues,” Koehler’s lawsuit states.
Palmer sued Infosys, but a US District Court judge in Alabama threw his case out last year because the allegations weren’t covered by state law. “In his lawsuit, Palmer claimed he was harassed at work, sidelined, and even received death threats for refusing to participate in an alleged Infosys scheme to use workers on business visitor, or B-1 visas, for tasks that required an H-1B work visa,” Computerworld wrote at the time. The judge in that instance wrote that the “alleged electronic and telephonic threats are deeply troubling,” but that “under current Alabama law, Palmer has no right to recover from Infosys.”
During this case, “another employee also testified that Americans generally were made to feel unwelcome at Infosys,” Koehler’s lawsuit states.
Koehler seeks class action status for the “thousands” of Americans not of South Asian descent who were denied jobs at Infosys since Jan. 1, 2009. Her lawsuit also demands orders compelling Infosys to adopt non-discriminatory hiring methods and financial damages for her and fellow class members.
During a congressional hearing last year, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Infosys and other companies are abusing temporary worker visas.
“Americans would be shocked to know that these H-1Bs are not going to Microsoft,” Durbin said according to The Hill. “They’re going to these firms, largely in India, who are finding workers, engineers, who will work at low wages in the US for three years and pay a fee to Infosys or these companies. I think that is an abuse of what we are trying to achieve here.”
Koehler’s lawsuit states that Infosys’s “practices relating to visas and employment of foreign-national workers in the United States are subject to extensive investigations by multiple Federal Government authorities, including for potential criminal violations.”
Infosys has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit in court. In a statement e-mailed to Ars, the company said, “Infosys is an equal opportunity employer. We categorically deny Ms. Koehler’s claims. We look forward to addressing this matter in open court, not in public venues where facts can become mixed with rumor, opinion and speculation.”
Thank you, TiA