Facebook and Infosys: Working hard to perpetuate H-1B hypocrisy

Silicon Valley is going all out to raise the cap on H-1B visas while at least half of Infosys's U.S employees are from overseas

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Why Infosys is a target
Despite the bluster about a labor shortage faced by Silicon Valley and how crucial it is to raise the H-1B cap, it turns out that the companies who import the most workers under that program are offshore outsourcers -- not U.S. firms struggling to find tech workers. Indeed, nearly all of the top 13 users of the program are outsourcers, according to an analysis of government data by our colleagues at Computerworld. Infosys, which ranked No. 3 on the list, brought in 5,600 workers last year and 3,600 in 2011. It's no surprise that the company has become the target of lawsuits by angry workers and disclosures by whistle-blowers.

In 2011, an Infosys employee named Jack Palmer sued the company, claiming he was disciplined and ostracized after declining to write fraudulent letters in support of visa applicants who were really planning to work in the United States for Infosys. The suit was eventually dismissed in an Alabama state court, but a federal criminal investigation into allegations of visa fraud is continuing, according to Kenneth J. Mendelsohn, the attorney who represented Palmer.

The current suit by Brenda Koehler, citing comments from former Infosys employees, alleges that more than 90 percent of the company's 15,000 U.S. employees are foreign workers, with most of them from South Asia.

That number may be exaggerated, but in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in early 2012, Infosys said: "As of December 31, 2011, the majority of our technology professionals in the United States held either H-1B visas (approximately 10,211 persons, not including Infosys BPO employees or employees of our wholly owned subsidiaries)."

Got that? One out of every two Infosys employees is in the United States at that time held an H-1B visa, which certainly lends credence to claims that the company has little interest in hiring locally.

Brain drain? Don't believe it
Infosys claims it has no choice; there simply aren't enough qualified workers and graduates to do the work. There's no doubt that some companies have trouble finding the help they need, but those anecdotes are not proof of a widespread problem. In fact, the evidence shows just the opposite.

If there were a shortage in the labor market, salaries would increase -- but they haven't. IT salaries inched up by less than 2 percent in 2012, pushing compensation back up to January 2008 levels, according to a study by Janco Associates, a research company.

Maybe there's a shortage of young brains coming out of college. Nope -- the number of grads in engineering and science has grown enormously, increasing from just under 400,000 in 2000, to 494,000 in 2008, according to the National Science Foundation, and the majority of those bright young people are not working in IT-related fields, says Ross Eisenbrey, the vice president of the Economic Policy Institute.

Those are facts. Is Brenda Koehler really the victim of discrimination? We'll let the lawyers sort that one out. But the jury is already back on the visa issue: Zuckerberg and friends are working furiously to undercut the gains IT workers have made.

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This article, "Facebook and Infosys: Working hard to perpetuate H-1B hypocrisy," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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