(Hartford, CT) – In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) this week urged the Department of Justice to investigate allegations that Eversource Energy has abused foreign worker visa programs to replace American information technology workers with lower-paid foreign visa holders. Blumenthal also wrote Eversource CEO Thomas May requesting a full accounting of how and why the company decided to fire 200 American employees, and whether those employees were forced to train future foreign replacements and sign non-disparagement agreements.
Recent reports claim that Eversource contracted with two offshore outsourcing firms to bring in foreign workers through the H-1B visa program to replace 200 American information technology workers fired in Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2014. Reports claim that the American workers were forced to train their replacements and were required to remain silent about their treatment.
Employers using H-1B visas must attest that they offered the job to qualified American applicants and sought to avoid the displacement of American workers. If the allegations are substantiated, Eversource’s actions may have violated federal law.
“Eversource seems to be just the latest example of American companies abusing nonimmigrant worker visa programs and harming American workers by outsourcing jobs. The use of foreign outsourcing firms has been the subject of major concern among a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues for some time, as has the disproportionate displacement of American IT workers by H-1B and other nonimmigrant worker visa holders generally. Such apparent abuses are the reason I have helped lead the fight to reform the H-1B and L-1B programs by co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would prohibit companies from replacing American workers with nonimmigrant visa holders,” Blumenthal said in the letter to Lynch.
Blumenthal has led bipartisan efforts in the Senate to reform the H-1B and L-1B visa programs to prohibit companies from replacing American workers with foreign visa holders.
Full text of the letters follows:
The Honorable Loretta Lynch
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Re: Eversource Energy Potential Abuse of nonimmigrant worker visa programs
Dear Attorney General Lynch,
I am writing to express my concern over Eversource Energy’s apparent abuse of nonimmigrant worker visa programs. In 2014, Eversource fired 200 American information technology workers in Connecticut and Massachusetts in order to replace them with similarly skilled, lower-paid nonimmigrant worker visa holders. I strongly encourage you to investigate this matter.
A news report has uncovered troubling details about Eversource’s actions, which I believe make the matter a strong candidate for investigation by the Department of Justice. According to this report, Eversource contracted with two offshore outsourcing firms to bring in foreign workers through a nonimmigrant worker visa program to replace their American IT staff. Then, the company forced the American workers – under threat of losing severance pay – to train their replacements and to refrain from making any “statements to anyone, spoken or written, that would tend to disparage or discredit [Eversource] or any of [its] officers.” The attempt to coerce the laid-off employees into remaining silent about their treatment is deeply troubling.
The statute and regulations governing certain nonimmigrant worker visa programs, like the H-1B program, require employers utilizing the visas in many cases to attest that they offered the job to qualified American applicants and sought to avoid the displacement of American workers. In light of the fact that at least some of the workers laid off by Eversource were coerced into training their replacements, it seems highly possible that the company’s behavior in this matter violated its legal obligations.
Eversource seems to be just the latest example of American companies abusing nonimmigrant worker visa programs and harming American workers by outsourcing jobs. The use of foreign outsourcing firms has been the subject of major concern among a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues for some time, as has the disproportionate displacement of American IT workers by H-1B and other nonimmigrant worker visa holders generally. Such apparent abuses are the reason I have helped lead the fight to reform the H-1B and L-1B programs by co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would prohibit companies from replacing American workers with nonimmigrant visa holders.
I am greatly concerned about whether Eversource has violated current law. In light of these highly suspicious actions, I urge the Justice Department to use all necessary resources to investigate Eversource’s conduct with regard to these workers and determine whether the company has abused any of the nonimmigrant worker visa programs, relevant employment laws, or other rules or standards governing its behavior.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Senator Richard Blumenthal
Thomas J. May, Chief Executive Officer
107 Selden Street
Berlin, CT 06037
Dear Mr. May,
I write to express my outrage at reports of your company’s layoffs of hundreds of contracted American IT workers at Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy), accomplished through apparent abuses of multiple nonimmigrant worker visa programs, including the H-1B program. I believe you owe your former employees and the people of Connecticut a full accounting of these events.
According to a news report, which Eversource has not appeared to deny, your treatment of roughly 200 American IT workers in Connecticut and Massachusetts was shocking. This report indicated that in the process of laying off these employees and replacing them with cheaper foreign workers who entered the US through nonimmigrant worker visa programs, you also forced them to sign non-disparagement clauses and even train their own replacements as a condition of receiving severance pay.
Nonimmigrant worker visa programs are intended to assist American companies in securing the assistance of foreign workers with skills or expertise not available here – not to allow businesses to effectively outsource their labor. I am dismayed that Eversource chose to pursue the latter path. Such apparent abuses are the reason I have helped lead the fight to reform the H-1B and L-1B programs by co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would prohibit companies like yours from replacing American workers with nonimmigrant visa holders. Your company’s conduct affirms that strong action is necessary.
I request that you provide me with the details of how and why your company decided to fire 200 Americans and what your former employees were required to do in the process – including how many were forced to train their future replacements.
I was particularly concerned by reports of the non-disparagement agreement you required your former employees to sign. Imposing an effective gag order prevents them from speaking openly about their experiences, and further smacks of intimidation and maltreatment of your workforce. I demand that you clarify for your former employees that the agreement does not prevent them from stating honestly what happened to them – and that you will not threaten any of them with litigation if they choose to discuss their experiences with me, my staff, or with other government officials.
Further, I ask that you respond to this letter with the following information, no later than February 22, 2016.
a) The number of employees laid off by Northeast Utilities from 2013-2015, including any employees who accepted early retirement.
b) The number of employees described in section a) who were tasked with training a worker employed by Northeast Utilities directly or through a contractor and in the United States on a nonimmigrant worker visa.
c) The number of workers employed outside of the United States by Northeast Utilities—directly or as employees of a Northeast Utilities contractor— from 2013-2015, broken down by quarter.
d) The number of workers employed by Northeast Utilities—directly or as employees of a Northeast Utilities contractor—on a nonimmigrant worker visa from 2010-2015. Please break this information down by visa category, month employed, job title, and by contractor (where appropriate).
e) The number of workers described in section b) who were later employed by Northeast Utilities/Eversource Energy—directly or as employees of a Northeast Utilities/Eversource Energy contractor—outside of the United States.
f) A description of the skillset that nonimmigrant workers brought to Northeast Utilities from 2010-2014 that Northeast Utilities was unable to obtain by hiring U.S. workers.
g) A complete description of any recruitment efforts made by your company or its contractors prior to hiring through the nonimmigrant worker visa programs.
h) Again, because this is a gravely important public policy issue, I demand your written assurance that former and current Northeast Utilities/Eversource Energy employees can speak freely and truthfully about their experiences during the Northeast Utilities layoffs and any events preceding or relevant to those layoffs. At a minimum, I would like your written assurance that current and former Northeast Utilities/Eversource Energy employees can speak freely to me and my staff without facing legal liability.
i) Any communications with Tata Consultancy Services—or any other contractor that employs H-1B visa workers—regarding Northeast Utilities’ plans for laying off U.S. workers after hiring H-1B visa holders.
In addition to this letter, I have sent a letter today to United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation into whether your company’s clear abuse of the spirit of nonimmigrant worker visa programs also amounted to legally actionable misconduct.
Please respond to the above requests as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to this matter.