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With H-1B visa, diversity doesn't apply

Patrick Thibodeau, Sharon Machlis | Aug. 11, 2015
Apple says workforce diversity "inspires creativity and innovation," but one of Apple's major contractors, Infosys, is far from diverse.

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Apple says workforce diversity "inspires creativity and innovation," but one of Apple's major contractors, Infosys, is far from diverse.

In 2013, Infosys, an India-based IT services firm, had 509 workers assigned to Apple sites in Cupertino, Calif. Of that number, 499 are listed as Asian, or 98 percent, with the remaining 10 identified as either white or black, according to government records.

Apple isn't the only firm with a disproportionate Infosys workforce. Of the 427 Infosys workers at insurance giant Aetna's Hartford, Conn., offices, 418 were identified in a court filing as Asian.

In the District of Columbia, where Infosys has developed a government-funded healthcare platform, 63 out of 71 workers are Asian. There are many other major employers that use Infosys with similarly large percentages of Asian workers, according to recently filed court documents in a Wisconsin federal lawsuit by four IT worker alleging discrimination.

This lopsided representation of Asian workers by IT services firms is not limited to Infosys. It is also a consequence of the H-1B visa program, which supplies most of the labor for the offshore IT services industry.

Nearly 86 percent of the H-1B visas issued by the U.S. for workers in computer occupations are for people from India, according to a Computerworld analysis of government data from a Freedom of Information Act request.

IT services firms "apparently cannot get enough Indian programmers, which has little to do with a shortage of competent natives for these types of jobs, but a lot to do with the industry's business model," said Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of International Migration.

The offshore outsourcing firms "prefer young H-1B programmers because the visa offers control over this contracted short-term workforce, it permits them to pay less than they would for experienced natives and they cultivate programmers who can better serve their clients after returning home to India," said Lowell.

Many of these H-1B visa holders will work for an alternate universe of firms that primarily hire IT workers from India. In many instances these workers may be used to replace people such as Brian Buchanan, a former senior IT worker at Southern California Edison (SCE).

Buchanan last month joined a lawsuit filed earlier against Tata Consultancy Services in federal court, accusing the company of discrimination. The claims in this lawsuit, which were filed by the same legal team in the Infosys case in Wisconsin, are similar to what Infosys is now fighting.

Buchanan was laid off earlier this year from SCE and had to train his replacements from Tata, who were from India on a visa, according to the lawsuit. Tata has called the lawsuit "baseless," and reiterated that following the filing of last month's amended complaint. Infosys has previously denied the allegations as well.

 

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