The hero of this tale is an Irishman, Ian Spandow, an L-1 worker who had risen to an executive position within Oracle, an American firm with an imperial reach.
Oracle, a software giant, is the villain in the piece, charged with discriminating against one of its workers from India, another L-1, whose the role is that of the victim.
All of this is played out against the tapestry of the L-1 nonimmigrant program, a particularly unpleasant system that allows multinational corporations to bring some of their overseas employees to the United States with absolutely no labor market protections, either for the foreign workers themselves or for their domestic competitors.
L-1 makes H-1B look positively benign.
And a point of the story is that when the Executive Branch of the federal government fails to enforce the law — as it did in this case — sometimes unwitting volunteers (like Spandow) can seek justice in the court system. May he prevail!
The story so far: Spandow, according to the complaint (a document written by his own lawyer) had worked for Oracle for years, starting in 2005 in one of its European offices. He moved up from a sales coach, to coaching manager, to a senior regional manager in database sales in the American West, receiving various awards along the way, but remaining a nonimmigrant worker in L-1 status.
Oracle apparently sent him on training missions to its corporate outposts all over the globe. We are not told his salary level, but it must have been close to, or more than, $100,000 a year.
In 2012 he applied to his management to bring an experienced Oracle employee from India to one of Oracle's offices in California. Then, according to the complaint:
Based on employee's experience and the salary for comparable hires, Plaintiff sought approval from management [to offer to him] a compensation level that was equivalent to Caucasian employees hired by Oracle for the same position ... management, however, denied Plaintiff's request.... [saying] the salary would be "good money for an Indian."
Spandow objected to the decision and shortly thereafter was fired without going through the normal termination procedures used by Oracle. That's his story; Oracle has not yet filed a brief in reply.
The Irishman then took his case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and EEOC give him permission to sue, and he did so in the Northern District of California. Users of PACER, the federal courts' electronic data system, can read the complaint that was filed on January 7, 2014, at 3:14-cv-00095-EDL.
Spandow's complaint: The major issue at stake, of course, is Spandow's claim that he was fired unjustly for protecting the economic rights of the unnamed Indian worker, presumably to be employed as another L-1.
Although I am not a lawyer, I worry that the complaint is not as strong as the case itself, and that Spandow may lose as a result. There are two reasons for my worry.
First, in the initial paragraph of the complaint we see "Oracle discriminated against Plaintiff based on his national origin". That opens the case to ridicule as clearly Spandow's Irishness was not a factor in the Oracle decision; his resistance to discrimination against the unnamed Indian is, and that is also in the complaint.
Secondly, there is another variable that is significant when it comes to the unfair job termination of nonimmigrants. When a citizen or a green card holder loses a job, he or she becomes unemployed, but can draw unemployment benefits and can stay in this country legally. When a nonimmigrant worker is fired, that person is equally unemployed as the citizen, but can neither draw unemployment benefits nor stay in the country legally. A fired nonimmigrant is transformed into an illegal alien.
Some reference to that, I think, should have been in the complaint. It is a good reason to demand more in damages.
Unfortunately, too often in cases like this the employer will decide to settle out of court in an agreement that routinely pays money to the ex-employee but requires silence.
Maybe Spandow is good and angry (and has some savings) so that the case is argued in open court.
In the meantime, let's hope that Irish and Indian media pick up on the story. Here's a case, thinking back to the British Empire of old, when a grandchild of one imperial victim seeks to rescue a grandchild of another imperial victim, except that Victoria Regina is now named Oracle.