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NRI drafts bill to amend H1-B

An Indian American woman, who lost her job to outsourcing, has drafted the bill that sought better deal for workers.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2005 22:43 IST

Even as the US Senate has voted to increase the annual quota of H1-B visas for foreign workers, an Indian American, who lost her job to outsourcing, has drafted a bill that seeks a better deal for employees.

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on November 17 by Bill Pascrell (Democrat-New Jersey) and seeks an amendment to the H1-B and L1 visa programmes.

It was drafted by Sona Shah, a data programmer, who is in the throes of filing a class-action suit against Wilco, the company that fired her after she had trained a foreign worker to replace her.

The bill, introduced by the Congressman on Shah's 34th birthday, has grown out of two years of Shah's work with Pascrell and her campaign against both outsourcing as well as the low wages paid to foreign workers who replace Americans like her.

Shah said the battle has been to establish a "class" of workers that are being underpaid, and those that are being displaced. This class action she noted, was different from traditional civil rights cases.

"We are kind of like the first sexual harassment case fought in the country."

According to her, the "class" in the suit is made up of approximately 2,000 people. As there is no federal law in the US under which the cases of both the H-1B visa holders who felt discriminated against and American citizens who lost their jobs to outsourcing could be brought, Shah said she was fighting the case under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Because of how new the lawwas and because it has no precedent set yet, Shah said lawyers were hard to find. So far, her legal battle has led to defeating a motion to dismiss the case and defeating a summary judgment appeal.

"It's a constant struggle to find the lawyers to make up the right kind of team for this kind of class action," Shah told IANS.

On Monday, at a press conference in Paterson, New Jersey, Pascrell announced federal legislation to reform what he called "the critically flawed H1-B and L1 visa programme."

H1-B visas are for "skilled workers" while L1 visas is for intracompany transferees.

"American workers can't afford for the federal government to remain silent on real worker visa reform," he said.

The text of the bill is yet to be posted in government documents but Shah provided a copy of the bill to IANS.

Shah, who was born in Ahmedabad, came with her parents to the US when she was three. She has a Bachelors degrees in Physics and Mechanical Engineering from New York University and Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey respectively.

But Shah is still looking for work after every successive job she held following her Wilco experience disappeared or went to an H1-B visa holder.

The Bill "To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide greater protections to domestic and foreign workers under the H1-B non-immigrant worker

program," was first introduced Nov 17 last year and again on the same date this year.

Shah had testified in the US Congress in 2004 in the middle of a heated national debate on the issue.

The bill's suggested short title "Defend the American Dream Act of 2005", calls for changes in wage levels to foreign workers on H1B that would match prevailing local salaries.

It also requires employers to submit wage declarations to the Internal Revenue Service, extend the time given for termination of services, prohibit outplacement, and requires employers to be transparent in providing information to employees on H1-B employees conditions besides a host of other measures.

First Published: Nov 22, 2005 13:41 IST