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Goel v. Patni Computer Systems

June 13, 2007

VISHAL GOEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PATNI COMPUTER SYSTEMS, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDade United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant's Objection [Doc. 20] filed on May 21, 2007. The Defendant objects to Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore's Opinion [Doc. 15] denying the Defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue [Doc. 6]. Plaintiff filed a Response [Doc. 21] to the Objection on June 5, 2007. For the following reasons, Defendant's Objection is OVERRULLED.

A. BACKGROUND

Judge Cudmore accurately described the facts before the Court as follows:

Defendant, Patni Computer Systems ("Patni"), is a company organized under the laws of the Republic of India, providing computer consultants to businesses throughout the United States. (Complaint ¶ 10.) Patni asserts it is incorporated in Massachusetts and has its principal place of business in Massachusetts. Patni has a registered agent in Illinois, and its Illinois clients include the State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") located in Bloomington. (Complaint ¶ 12.) Reportedly, about 80 Patni employees work in the Bloomington office and nearly 400 Patni employees work in the Bloomington area. (Doc. 12 at 6.)

Pursuant to a "Master Alliance Agreement," Patni fills works orders from State Farm with Patni employees. (Complaint ¶ 13, 23-26.) Apparently pursuant to such a work order, Patni employed Plaintiff, a citizen of India, to provide computer consulting for State Farm in Bloomington, Illinois, beginning in January 2004. (Complaint ¶ 13.) Plaintiff came into the United States to perform this work on "H-1B nonimmigrant status." Id. This status was achieved on petition by Patni and approval by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. (Complaint ¶ 14, 27.) Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, H-1B employees must be paid the prevailing local wage or the actual wage, whichever is greater, in order to eliminate economic advantage to hiring foreign workers. (Complaint ¶ 17.)

Plaintiff alleges that Patni systemically underpays its H-1B employees by paying them "significantly less than State Farm pays Patni to obtain the services described on the work order . . . ." (Complaint ¶ 30.) Patni allegedly also pays less than the actual or prevailing wage, in violation of federal law, and in violation of its representations on the H-1B petition (the "Labor Condition Application Form," or "LCA"). (Complaint ¶ 3.)

Patni allegedly represented in its LCA that Plaintiff's annual salary would be $44,000.00, but Plaintiff alleges he was paid significantly less. He also alleges Patni did not pay him for overtime and made improper deductions from his paycheck. Plaintiff maintains that he signed, under duress, a limited power of attorney giving Patni the right to "receive, endorse and deposit" for Patni's benefit any tax refunds due Plaintiff personally. (Complaint ¶61-65.)

Plaintiff found other employment in May 2005, apparently in California. After securing that new employment, Plaintiff began making requests to Patni for the money owed him. Patni officials allegedly refused, instead labeling Plaintiff as an "absconder" and demanding "bond." This alleged false characterization precluded Plaintiff from receiving a termination allowance from Patni to which he was entitled. (Complaint ¶ 54, 84.) Patni executives also allegedly warned Plaintiff to drop the issue or face trouble in his new job and harassment of his parents in India. (Complaint ¶ 70).

In January 2007, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in McClean County Circuit Court, pursuing three counts: 1) common law fraud based on Patni's false statements in the LCA (Count I); 2) conversion, based on Patni's wrongful deductions and withholdings from Plaintiff's paycheck (Count II); and, 3) unjust enrichment (Count III), based on Patni's refusal to pay the promised accrued leave, overtime, and salary represented in the LCA.

Patni brought a Motion to Change Venue before Judge Cudmore arguing that the proper Venue for this case is the District of Massachusetts. Patni emphasized that all of their employees with knowledge of Plaintiff's allegations are located at Patni's offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and argued that Massachusetts law would govern Plaintiff's claim. However, Judge Cudmore highlighted the Plaintiff's choice of forum and the location of non-party witnesses in the Central District of Illinois and denied Patni's Motion to Transfer.

B. LEGAL STANDARD

The standard of review of an order or recommendation made by a magistrate judge is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72. The scope of review of a magistrate's report differs depending upon whether the magistrate judge's order addresses a dispositive or a nondispositive matter.

A magistrate's ruling on a non-dispositive matter may be reversed only on a finding that the order is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." ...


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