Outsourcing giant HCL Technologies and its Sunnyvale-based U.S. subsidiary are exploiting the H-1B visa system while discriminating against non-South Asian workers, a new lawsuit alleges.
The firm applies for and receives many more H-1B visas than it needs, gaming the lottery-based system to snatch up as many of the hard-to-obtain visas as possible, according to the lawsuit by Gregory Handloser, a salesman who alleges HCL denied him employment five times because it favors Indians and other South Asians.
“HCL has been able to secure visas for far more individuals than it actually has a present need for,” the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, claimed. “For example, HCL is consistently one of the top-10 H-1B visa recipients in the U.S., and from 2015 to 2017, HCL received 10,432 new H-1B visas and 310 L-1 visas, far more positions than could actually exist given that HCL only
employs approximately 12,000 individuals in the United States.
“All, or substantially all, of the individuals for whom HCL secures visas are South Asian.”
Surplus H-1B holders are “benched” until they are placed into jobs, the suit alleged. Because the company has a policy to fire workers benched for more than four weeks, and because South Asians get preference for new positions, non-South Asians are disproportionately terminated, the suit claimed.
HCL, whose U.S. subsidiary is HCL America, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The H-1B, intended for jobs requiring specialized skills, has attracted the wrath of critics who point to reported abuses — by outsourcing firms, Disney and UC San Francisco, for example — and claim it is used to replace American workers with foreign nationals. HCL supplied Indian workers reported to have replaced Americans at UCSF last year. Silicon Valley’s tech industry relies heavily on the H-1B, employing visa holders directly and through outsourcers, and has lobbied for an increase to the annual 85,000 cap on new visas.
Handloser is seeking class-action status, to bring into the suit all non-South Asians who applied unsuccessfully for HCL jobs, a group he claimed numbers in the thousands.
While the India-based outsourcing firm has an “explicit preference” for visa holders from South Asia, even when it hires U.S. residents it “gives preference to South Asian candidates,” the suit alleged.
“HCL’s recruiters disproportionately seek out and recruit South Asian candidates,” according to the suit, filed Thursday. “And HCL then gives South Asian candidates preference over comparably or better qualified non-South Asian candidates. HCL also gives preference to South Asian and Indian contract workers, to the exclusion of non-South Asian and non-Indian job applicants and existing employees.”
At least 70 percent of HCL’s U.S. workforce is South Asian, mostly from India, while South Asians make up 1 percent to 2 percent of the U.S. population and about 12 percent of the U.S. IT industry, the suit claimed.
Handloser said in the suit he has worked in sales since 2003, “and has substantial experience with the type of outsourcing services offered by HCL.” While applying for a job with HCL in 2017, Handloser was interviewed by a former colleague who had become a hiring manager at the firm. The man later told him that he was interested in hiring him but his HCL superiors directed him to hire the Indian candidate for the position, the suit claimed.
After three interviews for a different job, Handloser was told HCL had instructed the hiring manager to give the job to an Indian candidate, the suit alleged.
“Mr. Handloser came to understand that he was not hired because HCL executives pushed for an Indian and South Asian candidate to be hired, as the executives prefer working with Indian and South Asian individuals for cultural reasons,” the suit claimed.
Handloser, of Florida, is seeking unspecified damages and compensation, and an order banning HCL from discriminating in its hiring.
HCL is facing a similar lawsuit from Texas computer-systems architect Reese Voll, which was in January pushed into arbitration by the same court hearing Handloser’s case.