Internal Infosys Document Eyes �Wiggle Room' Around Visa Rules

Don Tennant

An internal Infosys document addressing the need to bring the company into compliance with U.S. government visa regulations contained a glaring faux pas that revealed a proposed strategy to build 'wiggle room' into how it advises its employees to abide by those regulations.

On July 25, the Global Immigration team in Infosys' Human Resources Department sent a memo to Infosys employees to ensure that their employment locations in the United States were accurately reflected in the company's PayWorld system. Here's an excerpt from the memo:

Please be advised that your employment information must be accurately updated in PayWorld, especially regarding your current worksite location. An inconsistency with the locations have an impact on compliance with prevailing wage determination, taxation and immigration regulations, all posing grave non-compliance risks to the organization. All discrepancies and corrections must be completed by August 1, 2011. Any negligence in this regards may be treated as violation of applicable company policies. Audits will be conducted on a weekly basis post the deadline and any retro change in location will invite investigation and disciplinary action if needed.

Worksite location is a major visa compliance-related issue, and alleged location violations were included in the testimony that Infosys employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer presented to a Senate subcommittee on immigration reform on July 26 (see ). Here is an excerpt from that testimony:

Additionally, an HR manager and I provided [Infosys corporate counsel] Jeff [Friedel] with [information on] thousands of people who had never filed LCA (Labor Condition Application) paperwork to work in different states. I also gave him cases in which Infosys managers were intentionally committing fraud to avoid paying state and local taxes.

What appears to be a rushed effort to take care of the location problem, at a time when the U.S. government is conducting a multi-agency criminal investigation of Infosys, resulted in a jaw-dropping faux pas. Attached to the July 25 memo was a Frequently Asked Questions document that clearly failed to get a thorough final check before it was sent.

One of the questions in the FAQ document was this one:

My H-1 Extension is filed with USCIS already, can I relocate to a different location?

Here is the verbatim answer:

Relocation is not advised ('allowed' or do we need to leave some wiggle room?) when an H-1 Extension Application is filed with USCIS for several reasons, including but not limited to site visits and verifications at the stated worksite locations. A denial of the extension request for employment and H-1 status may result from any inconsistencies from those conditions stated in the petition.

The phrase in parentheses was italicized and highlighted in yellow, obviously flagged by whomever drafted the document for a decision to be made on the question because of its sensitivity. So it was up in the air as to whether Infosys would tell its employees here on H-1 visas whether relocation under those circumstances was not 'allowed,' or not 'advised' so they would have some 'wiggle room' with respect to compliance.

A copy of this document is in my possession. It was provided to me by Palmer's attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, who told me he wants it known that he's disclosing it in response to a statement released by Paul Gottsegen, Infosys' chief marketing officer, following Palmer's Senate testimony. Here's that statement, in its entirety:

The commentary submitted today by Jay Palmer (via Senator Charles Grassley) to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, is full of inaccuracies, exaggerations and falsehoods.� Mr. Palmer is obviously intent on spreading his falsehoods about Infosys and our business practices as broadly as possible in order to advance his objective of getting as big of a payout as he can from the Company.

Here are the facts:

  • There is not, nor was there ever a strategy, scheme, or policy by the company to use the B-1 visa program to circumvent the H-1B visa program;
  • The company did not have a practice of sending unskilled employees to the United States on B-1 visas to do the work expected of skilled individuals in the U.S. on H-1B visas;
  • Mr. Palmer's complaints to the company were handled in complete accordance with our published procedures for handling whistleblower complaints and in compliance with the law;
  • The company did not retaliate against or mistreat Mr. Palmer in any way.

As for the rest of Mr. Palmer's commentary, it is rife with misstatements. However, we will not now take on a point-by-point rebuttal of his comments and instead we will leave that to the current litigation.

Infosys is a world class company providing critical technology-based business solutions for our clients throughout the world.� We take very seriously our obligations under the law and specifically our responsibilities to comply with the immigration laws and visa requirements in all jurisdictions where we have clients whose needs we serve on a daily basis. We have a deep understanding that the Company's integrity and compliance with law must be uncompromised.� To that end, we have made and may continue to make changes in our policies regarding immigration and visa requirements with the intent of having the absolute best practices in place.

To say that Mendelsohn is livid about the way Infosys is attempting to portray his client as a money-hungry liar is a gross understatement. He pointed out with some incredulity that the response came from a marketing executive rather than from a corporate officer who is knowledgeable about immigration issues. Clearly, knowing what he knows, Mendelsohn is not going to allow Palmer to take a senseless beating without demonstrating a willingness to reveal some of what he knows in response.

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