Judge Myron H. Thompson of federal court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled that the allegations by the whistle-blower, Jack B. Palmer, did not meet the standard under Alabama law for a worker to claim negligent or outrageous mistreatment by an employer. The judge found in favor of Infosys on all six civil claims Mr. Palmer presented.
Judge Thompson made it clear that he reached his conclusion reluctantly, saying the nature of the case required him to base it on Alabama statutes, not federal law.
The judge described as “deeply troubling” the threats Mr. Palmer said he received after word of his visa fraud accusations circulated within the company. “Indeed,” Judge Thompson wrote, “an argument could be made that such threats against whistle-blowers, in particular, should be illegal.”
But, the judge wrote, “This court cannot rewrite state law.”
Mr. Palmer claimed that he witnessed Infosys managers making widespread fraudulent use of short-term business visitor visas, known as B-1 visas, to bring workers from India to the United States for longer-term projects. The short-term visas can be obtained more quickly than other temporary work visas, and foreign workers on those visas are less costly for a company.
Mr. Palmer, who is known as Jay, contended that Infosys used the short-term visas to bring in less-expensive Indian workers for technology projects, undercutting Americans with similar skills. Mr. Palmer continues to hold his job as a project manager at Infosys, but since his charges against the company became public, he says he has not been assigned any work.
Infosys hailed its victory, after a legal battle that began in February 2011 when Mr. Palmer first filed his lawsuit.
“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. “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.”
Judge Thompson noted that his decision was limited to employment issues and did not touch on Mr. Palmer’s visa accusations. Federal authorities in Texas are conducting a criminal investigation of Infosys’s visa practices. The company has strongly denied that it had any corporate policy of improper use of visas for Indian workers.
The judge noted that Alabama is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that “absent a contract providing otherwise, an employee may be demoted, denied a promotion or otherwise adversely treated for any reason, good or bad, or even for no reason at all.” He did not dispute that Mr. Palmer had received at least five “worrisome” threats after he first reported his concerns through internal whistle-blower channels.
But Judge Thompson found that the impact on Mr. Palmer of the threats, and of being denied bonuses and work assignments, was not “so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it,” as Alabama law requires.
The lawyer for Mr. Palmer, Kenneth J. Mendelsohn, said he was disappointed with the decision, but would not comment further. “It is important for the public to understand that Judge Thompson did not condone Infosys’ conduct,” he said.
An effort to reach an agreement through court-ordered mediation failed in July. Since bringing the suit, Mr. Palmer has struggled with depression that he said resulted from being idle.
Another whistle-blower lawsuit against Infosys was filed this month in California by Satya Dev Tripuraneni, who claimed he quit his job after harassment following his reports of visa abuse. Infosys has rejected his claims.
© 2012, The New York Times News Service