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US IT workers are suing Indian software giant Infosys over alleged abuse of two US visas; the H-1B 'specialty occupation' visa and the B-1 business visa. It is also accused of discrimination against workers who are not from South Asia.
Brenda Koehler, a software engineer from Wisconsin has lodged a lawsuit in the US District Court in Eastern Wisconsin on behalf of herself and other US IT workers after she was refused a job working for Infosys.
Ms Koehler has a BA and an MA in computer science and says she is 'an experienced network specialist'. She applied for a job with the company and was asked to attend an interview. She alleges that the interview was, in effect, a sham. She says it was rescheduled at short notice. She still attended but was not awarded the advertised position.
Infosys gave false reason for interview failureMs Koehler claims that the reason given for the refusal was that she was not familiar with programmes such as Microsoft Active Directory. She says that, in fact, she has considerable experience with that and other programmes. She says that the position was given to a worker from Bangladesh.
Ms Koehler says that up to 90% of Infosys staff in the US are from South Asia and that this is because the company is not properly advertising jobs to US workers or giving them a chance to take available jobs. She says that this is an abuse of the US visa system.
She alleges that 'Infosys has reached this grossly disproportionate workforce by directly discriminating against individuals who are not of South Asian descent…by abusing the H-1B visa process to bring workers of South Asian descent into the country rather than hiring qualified individuals already in the United States, and by abusing the B-1 visa system to bring workers of South Asian descent into the United States to perform work not allowed by their visa status'.
Infosys 'discriminates' by failure to employ AmericansIt is not actually a requirement of the H-1B visa system that a position should be offered to US workers before being filled by an H-1B worker but Ms Koehler claims that, because all positions are filled by workers from South Asia, American workers face discrimination, which would be against US law.
Ms Koehler is asking the court to grant an injunction preventing Infosys from hiring any more staff with H-1B visas until the case is heard.
H-1B visas allow US companies, or international companies operating in the US, to hire foreign workers who are either graduates or who have an equivalent level of skill and experience, for an initial period of three years. The visas can be renewed once.
H-1B visas used to employ cheaper foreign workersThere is currently considerable controversy about H-1B visas in the US. Critics complain that the visas are being abused. They say that they were designed to allow US firms, such as Microsoft or Apple, to bring in international talent to fill skills shortages but are, instead, being used by international outsourcing companies such as Infosys to import workers from India who will work for considerably less than an equivalent US-born worker.
While H-1B visas are controversial, it is legal to employ H-1B visa holders but Ms Koehler claims that Infosys is also breaking US immigration law by employing programmers and engineers who have entered the country on B1 business/visitor visas.
Those entering the US on B-1 visas are allowed to
- Consult with business associates
- Attend conferences
- Negotiate contracts
- Participate in training
- Interview and hire staff and
- Conduct research
- Run a business
- Engage in gainful employment or
- Be paid by an organisation operating within the US
One exception to the ruleThere is an exception to this rule. The 'B-1 visa in lieu of H-1B visa' allows foreign workers to work in the US for overseas employers but this is only permissible for short-term projects.
Infosys denies Ms Koehler's allegations. A spokeswoman said 'Infosys is an equal opportunities employer, and we categorically deny Ms. Koehler's claims'.
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