Cognizant, biggest US sponsor of H-1B visa, tries to bury anti-white bias lawsuit
The company has been accused of bias against workers who aren’t from India.
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., the biggest U.S. sponsor of H-1B visas for foreign information technology specialists, says a civil rights lawsuit accusing the firm of bias against workers who aren’t from India is all wrong.
Three former employees claim they were forced out of their jobs and replaced with “less qualified” South Asians after being poorly treated by their Indian supervisors and colleagues, given unjustifiably low performance ratings and denied promotions.
The company contends that what it’s accused of isn’t covered by federal civil rights law.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, but plaintiffs’ factual allegations, on their face, plainly pertain to a claim of discrimination based on national origin -- not race,” Cognizant said in a court filing. It also said the complaint is clearly targeted at “visa holders, but visa-status allegations have nothing to do with race.”
The lawsuit is part of a broader backlash by white IT workers against the visa program that allows U.S. companies to bring in foreign workers for job openings they say can’t be filled otherwise. President Donald Trump tapped into this discontentment to capture the White House in 2016.
Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, signed last April, seeks to ensure that American workers aren’t unfairly disadvantaged by employers who allegedly abuse the H-1B visa program.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles said Thursday she would rule on Cognizant’s request to dismiss the claims without a hearing.
Cognizant received 29,000 H1-B visas last year, according to Homeland Security Department data, about twice as much as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., second on the list. The biggest U.S. technology companies, such as Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Google Inc., are much further down the list with fewer than 5,000 sponsored visas each.
TCS may have to face a class-action trial later this year in Oakland, California, by American workers who claim they lost their jobs because the company is biased in favor of South Asian IT employees. The same Washington law firm representing the workers from TCS and Cognizant is pressing similar claims against Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd., two other IT outsourcing firms.
TCS, Infosys and Wipro are all based in India. Cognizant’s headquarters is in Teaneck, New Jersey.
The case is Palmer v. Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., 17-cv-06848, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
Inability to secure visas may adversely affect company’s business, says IT firm
Cognizant Technology Solutions shifted almost 8,000 jobs out of India in 2017, while adding positions in North America, according to the company.
“We had approximately 2,60,000 employees at the end of 2017, with approximately 50,400 in North America, 13,800 in Europe and 1,95,800 in various other locations throughout the rest of [the] world, including 1,80,000 in India,’’ the IT services company said in its annual report
In 2016, the U.S.-based company had a headcount of 1.88 lakh in India, out of a total of 2,60,200, with almost 47,500 jobs located in North America.
The shifting of 8,000 jobs out of India must be read in the context of the Trump administration’s increasingly tough stance on immigration and tightening of visa norms.
Cognizant said that “risks relating to legislation and government regulation on immigration may affect our ability to compete for and provide services to customers, which could hamper our growth and cause our revenues to decline.’’
“The ability of foreign nationals to work in the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific and other regions in which we have customers depends on their and our ability to obtain the necessary visas and work permits for our personnel who need to travel internationally,’’ it added.
“If we are unable to obtain such visas or work permits, or if their issuance is delayed or if their length is shortened, we may not be able to provide services to our customers or to continue to provide services on a timely and cost-effective basis, receive revenues as early as expected or manage our delivery centres as efficiently as we otherwise could, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition,’’ the NASDAQ-listed firm said.
The IT major said that the anti-outsourcing legislation, if adopted, and negative perceptions associated with offshore outsourcing could impair its ability to service customers. These could adversely affect its business, results of operations and financial condition, it added.
US Immigration officers could seek detailed documentation from companies to establish that they have specific assignments in a specialty occupation for the H-1B beneficiary
Trump administration has also made the process of extension of H-1B visas more difficult
The Donald Trump administration has just made it more difficult for companies and individuals to get H-1B work visas. And even if one gets it, it may not be for a full three years, as has been the practice. Indians and Indian IT companies will feel the impact the most because they are the biggest users of this visa. The shorter durations may even make the transition from H-1B to a Green Card next to impossible.
A policy memorandum issued by the US Citizenship & Immigration Services on February 22 said its officers could seek detailed documentation and more evidence from firms to establish that they have specific assignments in a specialty occupation for the H-1B beneficiary, and that they have these assignments for the entire time requested on the petition.
If the company is able to only demonstrate that the beneficiary will have the specified work for less than three years, the visa would be granted for that lesser period.
Currently, H-1Bs are issued for three years, and, for a long time, they were extended for three years with few questions asked. Over the past year, the administration has made the process of extension more difficult, compelling Indian IT firms to tell employees on H-1Bs that they may have to return earlier than anticipated. The new rules imply that one may not even now get the initial full three years.
IT association Nasscom’s president, R Chandrasekhar, said it would be complicated for an immigration officer to establish the connections between qualifications and tasks, and that in practice this would bring in an element of subjectivity. “The implication of this is there will be a lot more paperwork. A series of executive orders have been coming out. Each one by itself may not be much, but they have cumulatively added up to making it much more difficult and onerous for companies to use the H-1B route,” he said.
‘50% dip in number of Indian visa applicants’
Cyrus D Mehta, managing attorney and founder of New York-based law firm Cyrus D Mehta & Associates, said the new policy reinforces what employers of H-1B workers were already aware of—providing detailed documentation regarding proving the nature of the H-1B worker’s assignment at the client site.
“The new policy suggests, however, that additional evidence may also be needed, such as more details in the work orders or in letters from the end client regarding the beneficiaries’ work assignment. While all these issues in the new USCIS policy are already asked for in challenges to the H-1B petition known as Requests for Evidence, it provides more incentive for USCIS to ask for more evidence regarding the specific nature of the H-1B worker’s work,” he said.
A consolation is over the past two years, Indian IT’s dependence on H-1Bs has come down sharply, partly through efforts to hire more locals. All major IT companies have plans to scale up the local hires.
Nasscom vice-chairman Rishad Premji said that Indian IT firms use less than 20% of the 65,000 H-1Bs issued each year. Chandrasekhar said “in the last two years, the number of visa applications filed by Indian IT firms dropped by 50%”.
Chandrasekhar also noted that the US has a shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers and these measures on H-1B could end up hurting American firms that Indian IT companies serve.
"The Cognizant U.S. Foundation will directly address the existing technology skills gap through innovative programs focused on educating a wide range of Americans and preparing them to thrive in the digital era," Francisco D'Souza, CEO of Cognizant, said.
Cognizant said it would establish a new non-profit foundation, with an initial grant of $100 million, to support science, technology, engineering , math and digital education and skills initiatives for U.S. workers and students.
The Teaneck, New Jersey headquartered firm also said it had hired 6000 US workers in 2017 and planned to grow its US headcount by at least an additional 25,000 in the next five years.
"The Cognizant U.S. Foundation will directly address the existing technology skills gap through innovative programs focused on educating a wide range of Americans and preparing them to thrive in the digital era," Francisco D'Souza, CEO of Cognizant, said
The foundation will fund 'STEM education and skills programs, public-private partnerships and other initiatives designed for high school graduates, community college and college students, military veterans and others in the workforce looking to obtain specialized technical skills for digital technology jobs.'
The tumble in cryptocurrencies that erased nearly $500 billion of market value over the past month could get a lot worse, says Goldman Sachs
The tumble in cryptocurrencies that erased nearly $500 billion of market value over the past month could get a lot worse, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s global head of investment research.
Most digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they’re replaced by future competitors, Goldman’s Steve Strongin said in a report dated 5 February. While he didn’t posit a timeframe for losses in existing coins, he said recent price swings indicated a bubble and that the tendency for different coins to move in lockstep wasn’t rational.
“The high correlation between the different cryptocurrencies worries me,” Strongin said. “Because of the lack of intrinsic value, the currencies that don’t survive will most likely trade to zero.”
Today’s digital coins lack long-term staying power because of slow transaction times, security challenges and high maintenance costs, according to Strongin. He said the introduction of regulated bitcoin futures hasn’t addressed those concerns and he dismissed the idea of a first-mover advantage—noting that few of Internet bubble’s high fliers survived after the late 1990s.
“Are any of today’s cryptocurrencies going to be an Amazon or a Google, or will they end up like many of the now-defunct search engines? Just because we are in a speculative bubble does not mean current prices can’t increase for a handful of survivors,” Strongin said. “At the same time, it probably does mean that most, if not all, will never see their recent peaks again.”
Strongin was more upbeat about the blockchain technology that underlies digital currencies, saying it could help improve financial ledgers. But even there he sounded a note of caution, arguing that current technology doesn’t yet offer the speed required for market transactions. Bloomberg
The chief of a charity working with old people described loneliness as more damaging to health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
People across the world have several platforms to connect with new people or stay in touch with friends and family at all times in the age of social media. But the irony of our times is that many are struggling with loneliness even as they are in the midst of a crowd.
The sad reality about this condition is reflected in the British administration’s decision to appoint its first ever minister for loneliness. Junior Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch will take over the ministry meant to help people tackle isolation which British PM Theresa May described as the sad reality of modern life.
The appointment comes after an initiative by deceased lawmaker Jo Cox who was killed by a right-wing extremist. Millions of people in society are living in close proximity but aren’t able to form meaningful social bonds.
The chief of a charity working with old people described loneliness as more damaging to health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Former United States surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy wrote that it may be linked with higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, depression, dementia and anxiety.
Co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook’s personal net worth dropped by whopping 4.4 per cent.
It seems that Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change the way Facebook operates people’s news feeds did not go down to well for him. The move has cost him $3.3bn, with his personal net worth dropping by 4.4 per cent, it is believed.
After Facebook went public with the news feed change on Thursday, the website’s share value dropped by nearly four per cent before US markets opened on Friday.
By close of business on Friday Facebook shares were trading at $179.37, down more than 4.4 per cent on Thursday’s price of $187.77.
Forbes has calculated that for Mr Zuckerberg, the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, this translated into a personal hit of 3.3bn – a 4.4 per cent fall in his personal fortune.
Zuckerberg, 33, who started Facebook in 2004 aged 19, still owns a 17 per stake in the company, which went public in 2012.
He explained his reasons for changing the news feed algorithm in a Facebook post on Thursday, saying he wanted the website to prioritise posts from friends and family over businesses and brands.
The $13.5 bn IT services major Cognizant (CTS) was recently served a notice by the Income Tax (I-T) Dept, Chennai, pertaining to transfer pricing audit for Rs 2,500 crore, it has been reliably learnt from a source privy to the development.
The Income Tax Department has issued separate draft assessment orders to US-based Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) and Cognizant Mauritius totalling ₹564 crore as tax on other income, based on assessment year 2014-15.
The tax on other income for Cognizant Mauritius, which was a major shareholder of Cognizant Technology Solutions India Pvt Ltd (CTSIPL) during 2013-14, was ₹440 crore, while for CTSIPL it was ₹124 crore.
The IT department said Cognizant Mauritius filed the return of income for assessment year 2014-15 in September 2014 declaring NIL income. CTSIL bought back 9.16 lakh shares from Cognizant Mauritius for ₹23,915 per share and paid a consideration of ₹2,190 crore. The income arising out of this transaction was stated to be not taxable under provisions of the Companies Act 1956 with Article 13 of Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) entered between India and Mauritius.
However, the department said CTSIPL was using buyback as a vehicle to divert accumulated profits to associated enterprises outside India, taking undue and undeserved treaty benefits. “The assessee adapted a colourable device to repatriate cash without paying dividend distribution tax. Therefore, the treaty benefits of the above income is denied. The facts mentioned in the order clearly proves the intention of the assessee to evade taxes through a sham arrangement,” the department said in an order for both the companies.
The department said CTS in its return of income for assessment year 2014-15 in August 2014 declared a total income of ₹619 crore. CTS was a shareholder of CTSIL during 2013-14. During 2014-15, CTSIL bought back 2.59 lakh shares from the assessee for ₹23,915 per share and paid a consideration of ₹620 crore.
CTS said the income arising from this transaction (capital gains pursuant to buyback of shares) was not taxable under the provisions of DTAA entered between India and the US. It also said there was no income chargeable to tax as per the Central Board of Direct Tax instruction No 2/2015.
But the IT Department denied the treaty benefits for similar reasons attributed to CTSIPL. . It said the “The value of the share above Fair Market Value is treated as income from other sources under Section 56(1).”
The department said the draft order was forwarded to the assessees as a proposed assessment order for accounting year 2014-15. The assessee is required to file its acceptance or objections before the Dispute Resolution Panel at Bengaluru and to Assessing Officer within 30 days of receipt of the order.
A Cognizant spokesperson said to The Hindu : “In the normal course of business and from time to time, we review and discuss certain large transactions with the relevant tax authorities and, as always, will respond appropriately to any inquiries. Cognizant is committed to compliance with the law in all jurisdictions in which it operates.”
Pakistani TV anchor brings daughter on air to protest brutal rape and murder of minor
Zainab Ansari's death has led to widespread anger in Kasur, Pakistan.
A Pakistani TV anchor went on air with her daughter to protest the brutal rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in the country.
Zainab Ansari from Kasur district of Punjab province was abducted last week from near her house. A police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a trash heap on January 9.
Kiran Naz, a newscaster with Saama TV, went on air with her young daughter on the channel's 7 pm news bulletin on Wednesday.
"Today I am not Kiran Naz. I am a mother," she said, at the start of the show. Kiran had her daughter seated on her lap.
Speaking out against the brutal crime that Zainab was subjected to, she said, "It is rightly said, the smallest coffins are the heaviest. And a similar coffin today lies on the streets of Kasur and the entire country is burdened by its weight."
Zainab's parents were away on a pilgrimage when the incident took place. Kiran said that while the little girl's parents were away, praying for the family and thinking of her, a monster took her away from them forever.
"This is not just the murder of a small girl. It is the murder of humanity," she said.
Kiran's protest struck a chord with many from across the globe and she later explained why she decided to bring her own daughter to the news show.
"Since I got to know about Zainab, I could not turn towards my daughter and sleep. Because I could see Zainab when I looked at her," she said.
A heinous crime
Zainab, who was being looked after by a relative as her parents were away on a pilgrimage, was last known to have attended a tuition centre near her house in the Road Kot area on January 4. She was allegedly abducted after this. CCTV footage showing her with a stranger near Peerowala Road has since gone viral.
On Tuesday, a police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a trash heap. Police said the girl seemed to have been killed four or five days ago.
What's even more shocking is that at least 11 similar cases are reported to have taken place within a two kilometre radius in the city in the last year.
"The rapist or the murderer is a serial killer. In the previous incidents, the forensic evidence also determines it and the modus operandi of carrying out such acts also determines it," spokesperson of Punjab province - where Kasur is located - Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan said.
He said the authorities now have a suspect after interrogating 96 people, and have formed a special team to nab the perpetrator as soon as possible.
Preliminary examination of the minor's body -- that was recovered from a garbage dump on Tuesday - had revealed that she'd been raped before she was killed. This led to violent protests in Kasur during which two people died and several acts of vandalism took place.
Kasur made international headlines in 2015 when a gang of paedophiles running a child sex ring was busted, Dawn reported.
The gang allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted at least 280 children in the area, blackmailed the families of the victims since 2009, and even sold video clips and images of the assault.
In March 2016, Pakistan passed a law against sexual abuse of minors and child pornography, making the crimes punishable by up to seven years in prison.
2017 saw a rush of capital into the cryptocurrency markets, and there’s no sign 2018 will be any different. And millennials are keeping the frenzy booming.
According to a recent survey conducted by Blockchain Capital, 30% of those in the 18-to-34-age range would rather invest $1,000 in Bitcoin than $1,000 in government bonds or stocks. The same study also indicates that 42% of millennials have heard about Bitcoin, compared with 15% awareness among those aged 65 and up.
The millennial interest in trading cryptocurrencies is hard to ignore, yet they are not the only ones interested in this market. The competition for the coin is expected to become tougher in 2018 as new players enter the domain.
It’s safe to say that this year, more institutional investors will start trading cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin. Yet, at the moment the bitcoin market already faces a significant supply and demand imbalance despite the high price.
According to Timothy Tam, an ex-hedge fund trader and co-founder of CoinFi, an advanced market intelligence platform for cryptocurrency traders, it looks like the existing equation might force prices even higher. “There’s limited supply because, aside the fact that there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in circulation, most of the holders of Bitcoin are long terms holders. The demand on the other hand keeps soaring,” he explained.
Yet, Bitcoin isn’t the only investment-worthy coin on the market. Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin prices keep climbing up as well. If you want to invest in cryptocurrencies, here are the essential tips to do it the right way.
1. Beware of the bots
Financial markets are prone to speculations and cryptocurrency trading is no exception. Some “savvy” players are now using bots to artificially inflate the coin prices and manipulate the markets.
Timothy Tam points out that bots can seriously hamper your investment. “In 2017, Neo – a Chinese alternative to Ethereum – went from $34 to $3.74 in a matter of seconds, before returning on $34 mark. Trading bots artificially caused the price dip, which resulted in a flash-crash for a number of investors, while the organizing party largely benefited from this.”
Spotting the trading bot, however, is a tough call. You will need to carefully watch the market trading signals and learn to notice the abnormal trading patterns.
According to Tam, the two biggest indicators of bot market manipulations are price momentum and volume. As an investor, you should carefully watch these two parameters and try to notice coordinated buy patterns early on. The alternative is to use a cryptocurrency trading analytics platform that will do "the watch" for you.
2. Allocate your assets based on your risk tolerance
First and foremost, you should set a stop-loss level to avoid financial collapses. A stop-loss is the level of loss where the trade will get closed.
Next, keeping that number in mind, you will need to build up your coin portfolio. Think of this as managing your fund. The higher percentage should be allocated to the least volatile coins, with a smaller percent given to the least stable, yet potentially higher returning currency.
“You should keep in mind the price correlation between Bitcoin and most Altcoins to account for volatile market conditions,” Tam said. “What we noticed at ConFi is that bitcoin and the majority of other coins have an inverse relationship in their value. Once there’s a dip in the bitcoin price, everyone rushes into buying other coins and vice versa, This volatility can cause serious losses for inexperienced investors”.
The best strategy is to always keep an eye on the market signals and use those insights to adjust your trading strategy on a daily basis.
3. Resist overtrading and FOMO
Tam says both novice investors and their more experienced peers are often prone to these two mistakes that come hand in hand.
First, there’s the trading FOMO – fear of missing out on buying the new hyped coin and “losing” some potential profits. Investors often feel urged to buy a certain coin when the price is being pumped up and end up allocating a lot of over-hyped and often, illiquid assets. Also, remember the Neo case – the price may be artificially inflated by bots and the shining coin may quickly lose its value.
Next, there’s overtrading – immediately selling your coins if you see a small price spike e.g. 10-20 percent. In most cases, this could be a temporary occurrence encouraging smaller currency holders to sell their coins, before the price goes up further.
Trading a certain asset just because it's in profit is not a viable long-term strategy as it can diminish your future gains. After all, if the coin rises 10 times in price over a year, an 80% loss will wipe out that 400% gain you have initially made. Additionally, overtrading will result in a significant chunk of your assets being eaten up by exchange fees.
Disclosure: This blog post is not intended and should not be taken as investment advice.
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