A U.S. district judge on Monday dismissed all charges filed against an India-based software company by a whistle-blower who said he was threatened after complaining about his firm's visa practices.
In his ruling in Jack “Jay” Palmer Jr. v. Infosys Technologies Ltd. Inc., Judge Myron H. Thompson of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery said while Mr. Palmer's charges are “deeply troubling,” there was no evidence that Bangalore, India-based Infosys had violated Alabama state law.
According to the decision, Mr. Palmer began working as a principal consultant for Infosys in Alabama in 2008. In March 2010, Mr. Palmer “uncovered a massive visa fraud” while on a business trip to Infosys' corporate headquarters.
“He believes the company manipulated the B-1 visa program, which permits business visas in order to send Indian employees to the United States to work on a permanent basis,” according to the ruling.
Mr. Palmer filed an internal whistle-blower complaint and reported his charges to federal authorities, and as result the firm is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a federal grand jury, according to the ruling.
“Palmer contends that, since his visa-fraud allegations, he has been the target of a retaliation campaign,” says the decision. There have been “numerous threats related to his visa-fraud allegations,” including phone calls and an email that said he and his family will be destroyed. “As a result of these threats, Palmer is emotionally distraught, takes antidepressants and sometimes carries a concealed gun,” says the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Mr. Palmer has not received an assignment from Infosys since April 2011 and he “spends his days sitting at home waiting for work to come in from the company.”
Mr. Palmer has filed suit against Infosys under Alabama law, charging it with breach of contract; “outrage,” which is comparable to intentional infliction of emotional distress in other states; negligence and wantonness for failing to protect him from retaliation; negligent hiring, training, monitoring and supervising and fraudulent misrepresentation.
'Court cannot rewrite state law'
In dismissing the charges, Judge Thompson said, “Without question, the alleged electronic and telephonic threats are deeply troubling. Indeed, an argument could be made that such threats against whistle-blowers, in particular, should be illegal.
“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. Therefore…this court must conclude that, under current Alabama law, Palmer has no right to recover from Infosys.”
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the quarter ended Dec. 31, Infosys said it was subpoenaed in May 2011 and is the target of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern district of Texas in connection with its B-1 visas.
Mr. Palmer's attorney, Kenneth J. Mendelsohn, managing partner at Jemison & Mendelsohn P.C. in Montgomery, Ala., said in a statement, “While Mr. Palmer and I obviously are disappointed in the results, we certainly respect Judge Thompson's decision.
“It is important for the public to understand that Judge Thompson did not condone Infosys' conduct. He merely concluded that 'under current Alabama law,' Palmer has no right to recover from Infosys.”
The statement said, “Most importantly, this decision will have no effect on the ongoing criminal investigations or other claims or charges against Infosys.”
Infosys issued a statement that said: “Today's decision confirms what we have been saying from the beginning: Mr. Palmer's claims of retaliation were completely unfounded.
“This is a company built on core values that include leadership by example, integrity and transparency. Those values always have and will continue to shape the way we do business with our clients and, without exception, the way we treat our people. We are pleased to consider this matter officially closed.”