Prospective Witness in Infosys Case Alleges Discrimination, Visa Fraud

Don Tennant

Now that the mediation conference in Jay Palmer’s whistleblower lawsuit against Infosys has failed to yield a settlement and the case will be tried in open court next month, it’s interesting to consider the testimony that a vast public audience will hear. Some of that testimony will come from Marti Harrington, a former Infosys employee who also blew the whistle on the company.

Harrington, whom I wrote about last August in my post, “Third Infosys Whistleblower Flags Illegal Workers at Client Site,” is on the witness list submitted to the court by Palmer’s attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn. In a sworn affidavit filed with the court, Harrington provided details of the discrimination she allegedly suffered after speaking out against what she reported as fraudulent visa activity.

Here’s an excerpt from Harrington’s affidavit that outlines how she and Palmer were allegedly treated as the lone Americans:

I am a former employee of Infosys. Weird things started happening soon after I was put on the Johnson Controls [JCI] project in Wisconsin in July 2010. Infosys was trying to get a better footing in the supply chain management [SCM] arena. Jay Palmer is a subject matter expert when it comes to supply chain management and appeared to me [to be] the key to helping Infosys build this business unit. I know he also helped Infosys recruit some experienced resources and was directly involved in winning SCM business. It was July or August 2010 that Jay asked me to help with a presentation at a large automotive supplier. Jay did all the legwork, brought in the potential deal, built the material for the presentation and the relationships. On the prep calls, Jay and I were the only Americans. This was not uncommon. What I found uncommon in a professional environment was that one of the Indian resources made a few comments that I felt were disrespectful towards Jay. I don’t remember his comments, but they were around his knowledge of the product and business. This happened on a couple of prep calls. When we did the sales presentation, we were all remote, and that was very strange. I am still not clear how we did not end up onsite with the customer, but I do remember Jay saying this was a done deal. At the beginning of the call, the Indian resource that had been disrespectful towards Jay took over the meeting and was trying to do the presentation and handle the customer interaction. It was clear the customer was not happy, and the Indian resource would not let Jay or I get a word in. The deal fell apart.

My role at JCI continued. Around September, I was the only non-Indian resource on the team. The other non-Indian resource left soon after I joined. As time progressed, the customer started including me in all high-level meetings with senior management. While I managed the project, there were two Infosys people (both Indian) that were to manage the relationship, negotiations and contracts. One was a sales rep (Vijay) and the other a principal lead (Shan). During this time, these two resources were included in Infosys leadership meetings and responsible for any of the paperwork pertaining to onshore resources. I was not included in those activities. My role continued to grow as I took on more of the contract negotiations and strategic planning. While my responsibilities grew, the Infosys leadership still did not include me in key meetings. By December, I was told by a JCI top-level executive that they requested the principal lead to be replaced by me. They said I was “honest.” I waited for Infosys to say something to me, but they never did. In January, I called my boss and asked for an explanation about why I was not told of this request, why the principal was still on the project, why I was not included in the key meetings when I held the primary knowledge about the relationship. My boss (Sandeep Prabhakar Kulkarni) said he was working to move the principal off the project but never gave me feedback on my other questions. They then proceeded to share with him the knowledge I had about the customer and he admitted he did not know of the issues and did not have any idea they existed. While I was moved into the principal role, I only discussed issues with Vijay and Sandeep. Again, I was not included in the leadership meetings that the principal once sat in on.

Harrington went on to detail the alleged visa fraud:

In February of 2011, I became fully aware of issues with the visa fraud. I began getting phone calls from various [Infosys] legal counselors, wanting to know what I knew about the visa usage. At the time, I tried very hard to ignore the issue. Eventually, I looked at the list I had of Infosys employees on the JCI Maximo project and their visa status. This was the very list Jay had requested and I provided in the fall of 2010. I also did some reading on U.S. visas and immediately realized there was misuse. While I was in fear of company retaliation, I sent an email to our whistleblower account and immediately started getting phone calls from Infosys lawyers. Additionally, Jay Palmer’s attorney contacted me to seek my permission to give my contact information to the federal agents working on the issue. Two federal agents contacted me and wanted details about my involvement with Infosys’s visa process and the list I had sent to Jay. In addition to being afraid of losing my job, I was now afraid that because of my association with Infosys that I could get in trouble with the United States. Calls from attorneys continued but the agents stopped contacting me soon after I submitted my whistleblower email. After leaving Infosys, I found out the agents were not allowed to discuss issues with me without an Infosys attorney present. This large consulting company was illegally using U.S. visas for their own corporate gain and they were forbidding direct contact with me by the U.S. government because I (a U.S. citizen) worked for a company based in India.

The more I understood about the visa issues, it seemed to get me in more trouble. JCI found out about the visa issue and I was asked in the spring if anyone on the JCI project from Infosys had traveled to the U.S. on the wrong visa type. My answer was yes. I then went to discuss this conversation with the Infosys sales rep and he was visibly irritated with me and told me I should not have answered the question. I told him that I will not lie. We discussed [it] for a bit longer and I walked away from him. By this point, I feared I was going to get fired over this issue that was not my fault.

Other things that I noticed during the JCI assignment was that some of my coworkers were being subjected to traveling on a limited or no expense account. I did not realize until researching the visas why the company was forcing these people to travel and NOT covering their expenses the way other employee expenses were covered. I too had my own financial issues while I [was] waiting two, three and four months to get my expenses reimbursed. In November, I was blessed and found another job so I could leave Infosys. I took a contract-for-hire job in hopes of getting hired on with a family-owned, U.S.-based company.

Infosys employees harassed Jay in my presence, discriminated against me, conducted business in the U.S. illegally and I’m still worried they will seek retaliation against me for being honest.

Infosys did not respond to a request for comment.

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Apr 3, 2014 8:47 AM Steven White Steven White  says:
Awesome. Reply

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