Companies & Sectors
US court dismisses harassment case against Infosys

Finding no basis to support any of the charges filed by Mr Palmer, the judge ordered that all other pending motions are “denied as moot” and all pending objections are overruled as moot

Washington: A US court in Alabama has dismissed harassment charges filed against Infosys—a major Indian IT company—by one of its American employee, reports PTI.

 

“Judgment is entered in favour of defendants Infosys Technologies Limited Incorporated and Infosys Limited and against plaintiff Jack ‘Jay’ Palmer, Jr, with plaintiff Palmer taking nothing by his complaint,” US District Judge Myron H Thompson said in his two-page ruling on Monday.

 

“It is further ordered that costs are taxed against plaintiff Palmer, for which execution may issue,” Judge Thompson said in his order dated 20th August, thus bringing an end to a long drawn case against the major Indian IT company.

 

Finding no basis to support any of the charges filed by Mr Palmer, the judge ordered that all other pending motions are “denied as moot” and all pending objections are overruled as moot, according to the court documents.

 

“Today’s decision confirms what we have been saying from the beginning: Mr Palmer’s claims of retaliation were completely unfounded,” Infosys said in a statement soon thereafter.

 

“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,” Infosys said.

 

In a statement issued through his attorney, Mr Palmer said he is disappointed in the court’s orders, but argued that the judge's order will have no effect on the ongoing criminal investigations against Infosys.

 

“While Palmer and I obviously are disappointed in the results, we certainly respect Judge Thompson's decision,” said Kenneth J Mendelsohn, Mr Palmer’s attorney. “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,” Mr Mendelsohn argued.

 

Judge Thompson even stated that an argument could be made that such threats against whistleblowers, 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, the attorney said.

 

“Most importantly, this decision will have no effect on the ongoing criminal investigations or other claims or charges against Infosys,” Mr Mendelsohn said.

 

“Infosys argues, and this court agrees, that Palmer is attempting to boot-strap a whistleblower retaliation claim into a negligence or wantonness tort.

 

But there is no evidence that Alabama tort law recognises (arguably as an exception to the state’s at-will status) an independent cause of action for negligently or wantonly failing to prevent whistleblower retaliation,” the judge said in his 23-page opinion.

 

In fact as he donned the mantle of being a whistleblower accusing his employer Infosys of harassing him and indulging in visa fraud, the annual salary of Mr Palmer increased from about Rs80 lakh per annum to Rs90 lakh, in addition to the annual bonuses.

 

Mr Palmer’s base salary increased from $145,000 in 2008 to $165,000 in 2012, the district judge wrote while dismissing the harassment case against Infosys.

 

“While Palmer believes his bonuses are inadequate, he cannot base a claim of outrage on salary diminution given the undisputed facts about his base salary,” the judge wrote.

 

“Like many firms in our global economy, it works across borders and employs citizens from numerous countries. It often needs to obtain visas for its Indian employees to travel to the US for conferences or to work on a permanent basis,” the court said, adding Infosys also employs Americans in the US.

 

Mr Palmer began working for Infosys in August 2008 as a principal consultant. His starting salary was set at $145,008 and was eligible for bonuses per the company’s incentive plan. His job as a consultant requires that he rotate on and off projects.

 

“While on a business trip to Infosys” corporate headquarters in March 2010, Palmer uncovered a massive visa fraud. He believes that the company manipulated the B-1 visa programme, which permits business visits, in order to send Indian employees to the US to work on a permanent basis.

 

In May 2010, the company asked him to write “welcome letters” for prospective B-1 visa applicants; he thought that these letters were fraudulent and refused to participate in the scheme,” the court said.

 

“In October 2010, after repeated requests that he participate in the visa fraud scheme, he met with the company’s in-house counsel and decided to file an internal whistleblower complaint. Palmer subsequently reported these allegations to federal authorities.

 

As a result, Infosys is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security and a federal grand jury. He has also testified before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security,” it said.

 

Mr Palmer contends that, since his visa-fraud allegations he has been the target of a retaliation campaign, which the court dismissed in its order on Monday.

 

Mr Palmer alleged his bonuses have been adversely affected.

 

He believes the bonuses he received in June 2010 ($16,229), December 2010 ($7,251), June 2011 ($12,534), and December 2011 ($8,000) were below the rate set in his contract. Second, he submits that he has been the target of harassment.

 

Mr Palmer, according to the court, alleged he has been the target of harassment.

 

Regarding work assignments, he was placed on projects from October 2009 to June 2010, July 2010 to October 2010, and October 2010 to April 2011; however, he has not had an assignment since 3 April 2011, and spends his days sitting at home waiting for work to come in from the company.

 

“He believes that the company is refusing to give him work in an attempt to force him out. Further, he complains that he has experienced many computer problems and has been shut out of the company’s network,” the judge said, noting he has, however, refused to hand over his company computer for examination out of fear that someone will copy his hard drive.

 

Dismissing Mr Palmer’s allegations, the judge argued that Alabama is an “at-will” employment state.

 

“The bedrock principle of Alabama employment law is that, in the absence of a contract providing otherwise, employment in this state is at-will, terminable at the will of either party. Under this doctrine, an employee may be discharged for any reason, good or bad, or even for no reason at all,” is the explanation of the Alabama Supreme Court.

 

“And an extension of this principle and logic would be that, absent a contract providing otherwise, employee may be demoted, denied a promotion, or otherwise adversely treated for any reason, good or bad, or even for no reason at all.

 

The Alabama Supreme Court has, rightly or wrongly, jealously guarded this at-will status and recognized only statutory exceptions (for example, worker's compensation restrictions) and a few narrow non-statutory exceptions,” Judge Thompson wrote, giving explanation of dismissing Mr Palmer’s case.

 

Referring to Mr Palmer’s contention that Infosys breached its contract with him by not paying him a 30% bonus; his semi-annual bonuses since June 2010 have been undervalued.

 

Additionally, that him being “on the bench” status contributes to his reduced bonuses, the judge said that there is no formal document, signed by Mr Palmer and an appropriate Infosys officer or supervisor, bearing the heading “employment contract” or something comparable.

 

Judge Thompson said Mr Palmer was not even entitled to the 30% as being claimed by him.

 

“Palmer's bonuses are governed by Infosys’ incentive plan, which awards bonuses on a sliding scale from zero percent to 100% of base salary,” he wrote, adding Mr Palmer is not entitled to any specific bonus amount in any year.

 

As such, he cannot establish his breach-of-contract claim under Alabama law.

 

Referring to the MR Palmer’s allegations of electronic and telephonic threats and anti-American statements, the judge said even though these are “deeply disturbing”, it is clear that the Alabama Supreme Court would not view them as “beyond all possible bounds of decency,” so that it must “be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

 

Moreover, under Alabama law, because Mr Palmer has not been terminated, a claim of outrage may only proceed to trial under the most egregious fact pattern, he 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. Therefore, for the reasons given throughout this opinion, this court must conclude that, under current Alabama law, Palmer has no right to recover from Infosys,” the judge concluded.

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Maruti Suzuki reopens Manesar plant under police protection

Maruti Suzuki reopened its Manesar plant amid heavy security, a month after a lockout was declared due to the violence

Manesar: Maruti Suzuki India on Tuesday reopened its Manesar plant in northern Indian state of Haryana amid heavy security, a month after a lockout was declared due to the violence in which one senior company official was killed and 100 others injured, reports PTI.

 

Workers were standing in queue outside the factory gate to enter the plant amid heavy rain. Haryana Police has provided 500 personnel, out of which 200 are inside the plant and 300 in areas around the facility.

 

Besides, the company has also formed its own special force numbering 100, which includes ex-service men.

 

The company had earlier announced that only 300 permanent workers will resume work. Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) Chief Operating Officer (Administration) SY Siddiqui had said on Monday that the workers would operate just a single shift from 8 AM to 4:30 PM (local time).

 

Initially, about 150 cars are expected to be rolled out every day instead of the plant's normal capacity of 1,500- 1,700 units. Production will be gradually ramped up at the plant, which has an annual capacity of 5.5 lakh units.

 

The company had declared a lockout at Manesar plant on 21st July following the worst ever violence in its history on 18th July. The plant suffered damages estimated to be less than Rs10 crore, while the overall production loss during the lockout was pegged at around Rs1,400 crore.

 

MSI has also decided to terminate services of 500 permanent workers, who were allegedly found to be involved in violence inside the plant. Besides, MSI is also said to be planning to remove another 500 contract workers over their alleged role in the violence and arson.

 

Prior to the incident, the plant had an employee strength of 3,300, of which 1,528 were permanent.

 

To increase the workforce, the company will start fresh recruitment of permanent workers from 2nd September and existing contract workers will also be considered for the same.

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FIPB to discuss issues concerning multi-level marketing, FDIs

FIPB in its meeting on 24th August will deliberate on the perils of allowing FDI from companies in multi-level marketing, under which a person is required to enrol members to sell products and services

New Delhi: An inter-ministerial group will discuss issues related to foreign investment by companies in multi-level marketing, a methodology which was allegedly used by firms like Speak Asia to cheat investors of crores of rupees, reports PTI.

 

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), according to sources, will deliberate on the perils of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) from companies in multi-level marketing, under which a person is required to enrol members to sell products and services.

 

The issue is listed in the agenda of the 24th August meeting of FIPB, which is headed by Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram and comprises representatives of concerned ministries. FIPB is responsible for approving proposals of foreign investment in sensitive sectors.

 

Recently a study by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has cautioned people against joining multi-level product marketing schemes saying such programmes are primarily meant to con individuals to the benefit of a few sitting at the top of pyramid.

 

According to the study, the pyramid or multi-level marketing schemes are "over-priced" to pay huge commissions to people sitting at the top of pyramid and earn exorbitant profits for the company.

 

Most recently, multi-level marketing company Speak Asia Online and chit fund company Gold Quest International have come under the radar of investigation agencies.

 

The Singapore-based Speak Asia was accused of duping investors to the tune of Rs1,300 crore.

 

Besides multi-level marketing issue, the FIPB is also likely to decided on as many as 48 applications of FDI.

 

About 10 FDI applications of pharmaceutical and healthcare companies too will come up for scrutiny.

 

Applications of Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu), Sterlite Networks Ltd, (Dadar and Nagar Haveli), DB Corp, Wall Street Journal India Publishing, Tara Aerospace Systems and City Union Bank, are other items on the agenda.

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COMMENTS

MOHAN

4 years ago

'Reverent Am' (The "Father" of all money-chain companies !!) and the "Madam" sitting in Singapore may immediately depute their obedient journos to intervene otherwise they will lament in their pros-speak Asia blogs "India will soon lose its sheen of being the destination for entrepreneurship and growth" !!

We are listening!

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