Infosys, Big H-1B User, Loses Case but Wins Secrecy

By David North on August 1, 2011

Infosys, the big Indian body shop and extensive user of the H-1B program, has, in effect, lost an age-discrimination case in federal court, but everything about the case is shrouded in secrecy.

It is one of those settled-out-of-court arrangements where Infosys must have paid a sum of money to the U.S. citizen against whom it discriminated, but part of the agreement is that the details of the settlement must remain a secret. The little guy gets some money, which is good, but the big guy's operations remain a closed book. It is frustrating to onlookers.

This is the back story:

A 58-year-old U.S. citizen who has spent his life as a computer programmer applied for a job with Infosys. (I know his name, but it is irrelevant.)

Infosys is the largest of the H-1B users in the U.S. and its recent efforts to misuse the B-1 business visa got it some negative attention from the New York Times, as I described in an earlier blog.

Some time ago the U.S. citizen responded to a help-wanted ad in which Infosys noted a maximum experience requirement; it said, in effect, that it did not want anyone who was too experienced. The applicant had more than a quarter-century of the right kind of experience, so he was not hired.

The applicant, correctly, figured that this was age discrimination and took the case to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; court records show that the agency must have agreed with him and gave him a "permit to sue" decision.

Then the applicant hired a lawyer, used the EEOC document, and went into U.S. District Court. Prior to hearing any evidence, the judge ordered arbitration, but before that could begin, the two parties settled out of court. The judge then closed the case, unless the terms of the settlement are not met. We gather it was a long, drawn-out, two-year ordeal for the plaintiff.

That's all we know for sure, but there are some pretty clear implications.

1) Infosys, and similar outfits, probably will not insert a maximum experience element in their future ads.

2) While this case presumably resulted in a transfer of cash to the discriminated-against citizen – a totally good thing – it cannot be as useful to the anti-age-discrimination, anti-H-1B cause as a public court decision would have been.

3) It is probably better for the cause if the plaintiff (perhaps supported by an advocacy organization) forces the matter into a public trial, rather than accepting an out-of-court settlement, but that's not always possible, maybe it is only rarely possible.

If any reader knows of similar court cases, please share them with me at [email protected].