MUMBAI, India – An Alabama judge has dismissed a whistleblower harassment case against Indian outsourcing giant Infosys Technologies despite ongoing investigations of alleged U.S. visa fraud that arose from the complaint.
Infosys consultant Jack Palmer claimed he was harassed after calling attention to what he believed was systemic U.S. visa fraud at Infosys. Palmer alleged that Infosys misused short-term work visas — which are cheaper and easier to get than long-term work visas — to send Indian employees to the United States for permanent work.
Infosys denies the charges of visa fraud and welcomed Monday's judgment in the Palmer case, which was filed in 2011.
"We are extremely pleased to consider this matter officially closed," Infosys chief executive S.D. Shibulal said Tuesday. "This is a reaffirmation of our position that we did not retaliate and our view that this is a company which is built on core values."
He said that, for now, Palmer remains an employee.
The judgment does not address the allegations of visa fraud, which are being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security and a federal grand jury, only the allegation by Palmer that he was harassed.
In his ruling on the Palmer case, Judge Myron Thompson said threatening phone calls and anti-American statements directed at Palmer were "deeply disturbing," but did not rise to the level of harassment as defined by Alabama state law. For Palmer to have won his suit, the harassment would have had to be "so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency," the judge wrote.
Palmer said he received threatening calls, along the lines of, "Why are you doing this, you stupid American, we have been good to you," according to the judgment.
In February 2011, Palmer found a note in ungrammatical English on his computer keyboard that read, according to the judgment: "Jack: Just leave your not wanted here hope your journey brings you death stupid American."
Palmer said that as a result of the threats and languishing without work, he takes antidepressants and sometimes carries a concealed gun.
"(A)n argument could be made that such threats against whistleblowers, in particular, should be illegal," Thomson wrote. "The issue before the court, however, is not whether Alabama should make these alleged wrongs actionable, but whether they are, in fact, illegal under state law. This court cannot rewrite state law."
The judge also ruled that Palmer must bear the costs of the litigation. Shibulal declined to comment on how much the company had spent fighting the case.
Infosys is also fighting a second whistleblower case in a California court, filed by a former employee who said he was harassed and threatened after alerting Infosys managers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to visa misuse.
Satya Dev Tripuraneni, an accounts manager in Infosys' Fremont, California, office who quit in March, claims that Infosys routinely brought Indian workers to the U.S. on short-term visas to work for clients, then convinced those clients to accept fake bills that said the work was done outside the U.S. He also claims that Infosys overcharged its U.S. clients.
Infosys denies wrongdoing in that case as well.
"We have done an internal investigation as per our policies and norms. We have found that the claims are unfounded," Shibulal said. "Our lawyers are preparing for the defense."
Infosys stock closed up 2.4 percent in midday trade in Mumbai.