Feds want employee's laptop in B-1 visa case

Infosys case is moved from state to federal court; outsourcer seeks arbitration instead of jury trial

A lawsuit filed by an Infosys Technologies employee who refused to help the India-based company bring in B-1 visa holders is drawing attention from federal investigators, according to his attorney.

The attorney, Kenneth Mendelsohn of Montgomery, Ala., said federal investigators are seeking the work laptop used by the employee, Jack Palmer, who claims he was harassed and threatened after he declined to assist the company in getting B-1 business visas for employees he believed required an H-1B visa.

The B-1 visa is limited to short-term projects, such as meetings and consulting with associates, and unlike the h-1B visa , doesn t include prevailing wage requirements and some other provisions.

The case was originally filed in Lowndes County Circuit Court in Alabama, Palmer's home state. Infosys, subsequently, had the case moved to federal court, and last week filed a motion to take the case to arbitration instead of a jury trial.

Mendelsohn said Palmer is cooperating with federal authorities, which he declined to identify.

Mendelsohn says Infosys also wants Palmer's work laptop and threatened to fire Palmer if he didn't turn it over. Palmer, a consultant for Infosys since 2008, was given a new laptop by the company.

Infosys has demanded the laptop with full knowledge that the federal investigators want it, said Palmer. ITBusinessEdge first reported this development.

Mendelsohn expects the laptop will be turned over to federal authorities "sooner rather than later," pending arrival of legal papers for it.

Mendelsohn said the federal request for the laptop trump's Infosys demand for it.

When you have a choice about who to follow, you go with the guys with the guns and the badges, said Mendelsohn, and I think that is the right thing to do.

In its motion to compel arbitration, Infosys cited an agreement that Palmer signed, which included submitting to binding arbitration for any and all controversies, claims or disputes relating to his employment.

Mendelsohn said he plans to object to arbitration so it remains in court and subject to a public hearing "as opposed to a conference room somewhere."

On the issue of arbitration generally, Paul Lopez, a labor and employment attorney with the law firm Tripp Scott in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the main reason that employees are asked to sign arbitration agreements is a fear by their employers that a jury trial could deliver a runaway verdict based more on emotion than fact.

"In employment law disputes, the employee is always viewed as the David to the company's Goliath, so companies are concerned about the dynamic in a courtroom," said Lopez.

Arbitration agreements are widely used by employers, and their use has been upheld by courts, said Lopez. The downside for employers is that arbitration cases are also "very, very difficult to appeal and overturn," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick s RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

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Patrick Thibodeau

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