Company sued for allegedly making workers turn over tax refunds
SAN FRANCISCO - An Indian employee of an information technology consulting company filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging he and other foreign workers were required to give their employers their tax return checks.
Starting when he arrived in the United States from India in 2000, Gopi Vedachalam was ordered to sign over federal and state tax returns totaling about $25,000 to his employer, Tata America International Corporation, according to the suit filed in San Francisco federal court.
Vedachalam's employer is an American subsidiary of Tata Consultancy Services, the Indian company that originally hired him in Bangalore in 1997. The American branch has offices throughout the United States, from California to New York.
Company officials have not had an opportunity to review the complaint, so could not comment on the charges.
"We take this very seriously," said Michael McCabe, a New York-based spokesman for Tata Consultancy Services.
If the judge certifies this suit merits class-action status, it could grow to include the approximately 5,000 foreign workers the company employs in the United States who may also have been allegedly required to give up their tax refunds, said Vedachalam's attorney, Steven Tindall. It could take until the end of the year for a judge to make that decision, attorneys said.
Through the company, Vedachalam was hired as a project manager for well-known U.S. corporations like Target and 21st Century Insurance.
Each year that Vedachalam worked for Tata America in the United States, he was asked to sign agreements allowing an outside agency to fill out his tax return forms, he alleged in the suit. Once he got a check back from federal and state authorities, the company required him to endorse the check and send it back to them, the suit said.
He said that when he was new to this country, he thought this was the correct procedure. He was shocked to find out it wasn't true, he said.
"I felt humiliated about the way the treated us," he said. "It's not fair to do it that way."
In 2004, for example, the company sent Vedachalam a memo that said, "We are now forwarding you the tax refund check received from the Tax Authority. Please sign on the reverse of the cheque and return it to the below mentioned address."
The suit alleges Vedachalam and other foreign employees were never repaid that money.
It also brings other complaints, including one regarding the company's "use it or lose it" vacation policy, which forced California employees to lose unused vacation days. Up to five days could be held over for the following year. The rest were given up for no pay, Tindall said.
The suit asks the company to repay employees for money and vacation time lost and to cover attorney's costs in addition to any punitive damages assessed by the judge.
"Tata Consulting" will always remind me of the dotcom I worked at where they were ham-handedly attempting to screw us by outsourcing all kinds of things, and that was one of the bidders. We kept getting these meeting invitations that said "YOUR PRESENCE AT THE TATA MEETING IS CRITICAL", etc., causing much hilarity.