It has been 17 months since Jack B. Palmer first made a quiet complaint through internal channels at Infosys, the giant Indian outsourcing company he works for, saying he suspected some managers were committing visa fraud. Since then, Mr. Palmer says, he has been harassed by superiors and co-workers, sidelined with no work assignment, shut out of the company’s computers, denied bonuses and hounded by death threats.
But what has driven him nearly crazy, with bouts of depression alternating with rage, Mr. Palmer said, is the silence. Since last April, Mr. Palmer has been stewing day after day in his home near Montgomery, Ala., contemplating a blank Infosys screen on his computer and agonizing over whether his whistle-blowing was worth it.
Mr. Palmer said
“They did the worst thing they could do to someone who is used to working 80 hours a week.They sit me at home and cut me off from everything. My life is floating in Infosys purgatory.”
Mr. Palmer’s experience since he filed his first report in October 2010 alleging misuse of business visitor visas for Indian workers is a cautionary tale about the perils of confronting a big corporation. Mr. Palmer’s travails have been compounded because he is in a small minority of Americans employed by the huge company, which has $6.8 billion in annual revenues and about 15,000 employees in the United States alone, most from India.
A lawsuit Mr. Palmer filed against Infosys in February 2011 prompted federal prosecutors in Plano, Tex., where the company has offices, to open a criminal investigation that is still expanding. Federal investigators are looking into whether the company used workers from India for certain kinds of jobs here that were not allowed under their temporary visas, known as B-1. They are also examining numerous irregularities in the company’s hiring practices and documents, federal officials said.
Infosys, a fast-growing global business that has carefully built a reputation for integrity, vigorously denies Mr. Palmer’s accusations and is fighting his lawsuit in federal court in Montgomery.
Mr. Palmer, 44, a software project manager for Infosys since August 2008, said he decided to sue the company, claiming he was punished for reporting corporate misdeeds, after executives pressured him to drop his complaints. But even as the months have crawled by, Mr. Palmer has not quit his Infosys job, fearing he will not get another one now that he is known as the guy who went up against the Indian company.
“The mental and physical challenge one takes on after blowing the whistle is excruciating,” Mr. Palmer, who is known as Jay, wrote in a recent e-mail. After what he has seen, he said, “It will be hard for me to advise anyone to blow the whistle. You’re around people every day, and then all of a sudden you are staring at four walls.No one will hire me and I can’t quit, so they just torture me. I have become numb and cumbersome to this world.”.
In Senate testimony and court documents, Mr. Palmer charged that Infosys brought Indian workers on short-term visitor visas, known as B-1, instead of longer-term temporary visas, known as H-1B, which are more costly and time-consuming to obtain. Infosys and other Indian technology outsourcing companies are consistently among the top users of H-1B visas, but in recent years intensified scrutiny by the State Department has made those visas more difficult to get.
The B-1 is for foreigners coming for conferences or to conduct training, consulting or contract negotiations who continue as employees of the company abroad. They are paid at the generally lower wage rates of the home country.
Mr. Palmer is still on the Infosys payroll, but with no work and little communication from the company, and his moods swing erratically, he said. He has struggled with drinking, gained and lost 20 pounds and taken medication for anger and depression.
Mr. Palmer said his troubles started soon after he filed his first report through an internal whistle-blower channel designated by Jeffrey Friedel, a senior Infosys lawyer. Within days of his report, Mr. Palmer said, it leaked within the company. One manager threatened to fire him, he said, and he received angry calls from co-workers. In November 2010, according to court documents, he found a death threat, neatly printed, on the chair in his office.
- US probing business visa sponsorships: Infosys (ibnlive.in.com)