Finally, somebody besides Don Tennant or Patrick Thibodeau is covering the looming Infosys trial:
Infosys, the Indian IT outsourcing giant, is headed to court this month, to face allegations that it committed visa fraud to bring workers to the United States, and then tried to intimidate a whistleblower. Immigration and outsourcing experts say recent scrutiny facing the practice means CIOs need to be more vigilant when monitoring outsourcing firms who work onsite, or face harm to company reputation, and even legal consequences and the deportation of staff.
The civil suit, filed by a former consultant with the firm, alleges that Infosys improperly used short-term business travel documents, known as B1 visas, to bring Indian workers to the United States to work on client sites. The case will go to federal court in Alabama on August 20, after attempts at a settlement collapsed last week.
Jack Palmer, the former employee, claims he was asked to fill out paperwork for the employee travel visas, falsely representing the purposes of these trips as short visits for meetings. When he refused and reported the violations to the company’s corporate counsel, Palmer alleges Infosys managers retaliated by withholding bonuses and pulling him off job sites. Infosys also did not withhold federal or state taxes from these employees, the suit alleges. Infosys is now the target of a federal criminal investigation, probing its use of visitor visas, the company stated in a corporate filing in May.
“There is not and never has been a policy to use B1 visas to circumnavigate visa policies,” said Danielle D’Angelo, a spokeswoman for Infosys. “We have never retaliated against any employee and any allegations that say otherwise are simply not accurate.”
The practice of improperly using business travel visas is common for outsourcers that send workers to client sites, said Phil Fersht, CEO of HfS, an outsourcing research firm. The H1B work visa–the appropriate document for longer-term onsite work–costs companies thousands of dollars per employee and the federal government has reduced their availability in recent years. “Outsourcers are trying to get staff to work an engagement as quickly as possible and they will work the system as much as possible,” Fersht said.
CIOs contemplating the hiring of on-site outsourcers can expose their companies to grave reputational harm if they don’t ask the right questions, Fersht said. “They should be worried.”
Even if the client company has no knowledge of outsourcer visa policies, it can be named in legal actions surrounding the case, like numerous Fortune 500 companies named in the Infosys civil case documents. “I don’t think any American organization wants their name attached to foreign employees on incorrect visas, in widely publicized court battles,” Fersht said.
To avoid this reputational harm Fersht says CIOs should push outsourcers to ensure that workers brought into the office are on the correct visa. “They’ve got every right to validate the immigration status of every employee sitting in their office.”
James Nolan, a New York-based immigration attorney, says CIOs who use outsourcers could also find themselves in legal hot water if they help facilitate a visa under false pretenses. CIOs may be asked by a foreign outsourcer to provide the “welcome” document needed for a business travel visa, which states that an outsourced employee is coming into the country for a meeting or training. But if he knows the worker will actually do longer-term work onsite, he could be committing immigration fraud, Nolan said. “If it’s ongoing and systematic, they could be prosecuted,” he said.
CIOs who use outsourcers who are not aboveboard on immigration issues also risk being left with projects incomplete, if a crackdown leads to workers being deported, said Ben Trowbridge, CEO of Alsbridge, an outsourcing consulting firm. “If your provider has to have people sent back, an essential system can go down because of the disruption to the team,” Trowbridge said.