Does Alabama Judge’s Ruling Yesterday End The Visa Debate?

In short, no.  

In May I wrote about Infosys’ visa woes. Yesterday, an Alabama judge ruled in favor of Infosys in the first of the visa-related whistleblower lawsuits. It is important to note that this lawsuit was not about whether or not Infosys violated any visa laws, it was about whether Infosys retaliated against the plaintiff, Jay Palmer, for reporting visa misuse to executives at Infosys. The judge, Myron H. Thompson, allowed that although Palmer claimed he was mistreated and abused when he filed the internal whistleblower claim, because Palmer was an at-will employee, he, under Alabama law, has very few employee rights. In his decision, the judge referred to an Alabama Supreme Court decision that found, "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 went on to say, "Without question, the alleged electronic and telephonic threats are deeply troubling. Indeed, 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."  

Thus, SVM executives do need to maintain their vigilance when it comes to understanding their current visa exposures — this ruling has absolutely nothing to do with visas and their proper or improper use. In fact, Infosys is still under investigation by the US government for violating US immigration and tax laws. And the results of those investigations will likely impact not only Infosys but all other large technology companies that use US employment visas.

As it relates to the other whistleblower lawsuits, Infosys still has another one to battle in the state of California. California is known to be a more pro-employee state, and so the outcome could theoretically be different. Still, this too will not be a referendum on Infosys' legal or illegal use of employment visas.

 I will be putting out a short doc next week explaining the different employment visas used by foreign technology professionals — so that all SVM executives can understand what their potential risks and exposures are.