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Rao v. Covansys Corp.

November 1, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge


This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant Covansys Corporation ("Covansys") for summary judgment in its favor on the complaint of Plaintiff Raghupathi Rao. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


The following factual recitation is derived from the parties' statements of material fact filed pursuant to Local Rule 56.1. Rao, an Indian citizen, is a former employee of Covansys, a Michigan corporation with its principal place of business in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Covansys provides technology services to its clients; employees are often assigned to work on clients' premises for extended periods of time.

Rao began working for Covansys on February 1, 1999, as a computer specialist. He was admitted to the United States under an H-1B visa, which allows alien workers to enter and work in this country on a temporary basis in certain specialty occupations.*fn1

Rao was initially assigned to work on-site for W.W. Grainger, one of Covansys's clients, in Niles, Illinois. This assignment continued until April 2000. For a month thereafter, he was not assigned to an external client. During that time, he underwent training and worked on internal projects; his salary remained the same. Holders of nonimmigrant visas, such as the H-1B, who are no longer working on a project in their designated field are required to return to their native country. To avoid having to return to India, Rao requested to be placed on another Covansys project.

In May 2000, he was assigned to another project that was intended to provide Grainger with technology support and ensure that its computer programs ran uninterrupted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He continued with this project until December 2001. During this project, Rao's day-to-day activities included starting and stopping fax machines and printers; monitoring and canceling user jobs; loading and unloading tapes from racks and carts; pushing the carts to the facility's loading area; loading paper into printers; printing labels; answering phone calls; interviewing prospective employees; and various other tasks that he contends were not suitable for an employee engaged in a "specialty occupation." According to Rao, these duties jeopardized his H-1B status, potentially compromised his ability to become a permanent resident alien, and exposed him to a risk of deportation.

After December 2001, Rao went through a period when he was not assigned to a particular project, followed by a two-month project, followed by another period without a specific assignment that lasted until May 2002. In that month, Rao agreed to be assigned to Mattel, Inc., a Covansys client located in southern California. Before he moved, Rao spoke with Renga Varadh, a Covansys resource manager,*fn2 about having his salary increased to offset the higher cost of living in California. According to Rao, in response to his inquiries, Varadh stated, "Don't worry about all these things...[w]e will take care of it later. You now concentrate on reporting to the Mattel office as soon as possible." When Rao pressed the issue further, Varadh responded, "I told you not to worry. All these things will be considered after you move here."

Rao moved to California in June 2002. His salary was not adjusted; he states that his cost of living was $1000 per month higher than it had been in Illinois. He continued to work in Los Angeles for Covansys for another 43 months. In December 2005, after obtaining permanent residency, Rao quit his job with Covansys.

On August 30, 2006, Rao filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeking damages for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel. Thereafter, Covansys removed the case to this court, relying upon diversity jurisdiction. The parties have completed discovery, and Covansys now moves for summary judgment in its favor on all three counts of the complaint.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which the non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial. Id. The non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary evidence. Id. The court considers the record as a whole and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Bay v. Cassens Transp. Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

With these principles in mind, we turn to the ...

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