Infosys faces new visa fraud allegation

Former employee says he was harassed after he raised concerns about B-1 visa use at the offshoring company

The Indian offshoring giant Infosys ran a "full-throated campaign of retaliation" against employees to deter them from cooperating with federal authorities investigating visa fraud, according to a new lawsuit.

This allegation is made in court papers by a former Infosys employee, Satya Dev Tripuraneni, who claims he was punished after raising concerns about the company's visa practices. He later met with a federal agent and filed a whistleblower complaint with federal authorities.

If Tripuraneni's complaint sounds familiar, it should. This is the second lawsuit filed against Infosys by an employee claiming he was harassed after raising concerns about the company's visa practices.

Jay Palmer, an Infosys employee, filed a lawsuit last year alleging harassment, including threats, after he refused to help the company get B-1 visas, a business visitor visa, for work requiring an H-1B work visa.

Palmer's allegation drew the attention of federal investigators. The government doesn't comment on investigations, but Infosys said in an SEC filing in April that it was a target of a federal probe over its use of visas.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has raised the Palmer case in Congress as part of his effort to get tougher restrictions on the H-1B visa. He took note of the Tripuraneni case as well in a letter released on Wednesday.

Grassley, in his letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, asked for information about government's investigation into visa fraud, as well as the two lawsuits against Infosys.

Tripuraneni's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in California, makes new allegations about the company's visa practices.

Tripuraneni was an account manager at Infosys and, according to the lawsuit, had been cited for "exemplary performance."

But last year, Tripuraneni claims he was asked to bring "a client into confidence to allow an Infosys resource (an employee) to come to the United States and work on a B-1 visa."

In the lawsuit, Tripuraneni said he was "asked to persuade the client to agree not to bill a person on site, but rather to bill for dummy resources outside the United States who were not involved in the client's business."

Unlike the H-1B visa, the B-1 visa doesn't include any prevailing wage or federal tax requirements. It's intended for short-term uses, such as consulting, attending a convention, negotiating a contract.

Tripuraneni said in the lawsuit he raised the "illegal practices" with his supervisor, and later the company's internal whistleblower team. As a result, Tripuraneni alleges he was "the subject of a systematic campaign of retaliation" by his supervisor, along with negative performance evaluations.

In February, an anonymous caller threatened his family, according to the lawsuit. He resigned from his job in March.

Asked to respond to Tripuraneni's complaint, Infosys said in a written statement that "shortly after Mr. Tripuraneni filed his complaint with the Infosys whistleblower team, per our policy, the company launched a comprehensive investigation of his allegations. That investigation is continuing."

Palmer's case against Infosys is schedule to begin with jury selection Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, Ala.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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