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Feds investigating Southern California Edison contractors after allegations of work visa abuse

A Southern California Edison sign outside the San Onofre Nuclear Plant.
Grant Slater/KPCC
A Southern California Edison sign outside the San Onofre Nuclear Plant.

The federal Department of Labor has opened an investigation into alleged work visa abuse involving two outsourcing companies used by the Southern California Edison Company.

The Rosemead-based utility company came under fire last year after announcing it would lay off hundreds of employees, including information technology staff. Some staffers were allegedly replaced with outsourced high-skilled foreign workers.

In a letter to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), dated June 10, federal officials refer to two outsourcing agencies used by the company. It reads: "The Department has recently opened investigations related to Tata and Infosys's provision of H-1B workers to SCE."

A spokesman for Chu noted that the investigation is into the two firms used to hire workers for Edison, not the utility company itself.

The letter from the Department of Labor later states "the Department has also recently referred allegations concerning SCE and its contractor consultants to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment practices (OSC) at the Department of Justice for investigation."

Chu is one of several lawmakers who called for an investigation into allegations that the company replaced domestic workers with foreign workers on visas. Edison announced plans to lay off workers and outsource labor in April of last year. Computerworld reported in February that some Edison I-T workers had complained about being replaced by workers from India, and that some said they had to train their replacements.

After hearing of the investigation, Chu released a statement applauding the Department of Labor. It read in-part: "Our immigration laws should protect American workers, while allowing for our economy to benefit from foreign workers with unique skills. We must ensure our visa system maintains this delicate balance."

Late last month, an official with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services first responded to Chu's call for an investigation. A letter to her states that the agency strives "to do our work with the greatest possible integrity and efficiency." It continues:

"This includes following up on concerns such as those you raise regarding Southern California Edison to ensure that petitions are entirely consistent with our legal framework. USCIS will work with the Department of Labor to review visa petitions and labor condition and certification applications, as appropriate. If we receive information that alleges violations have occurred, the Department will take appropriate action to maintain the integrity of our programs."

In a statement to KPCC last week, an Edison spokeswoman referenced the utility company's contracts with Infosys and TCS, which stands for Tata Consultancy Services. She wrote "SCE’s contracts with IT vendors Infosys and TCS require those companies to comply with all applicable laws and, specifically, those requiring valid and appropriate work authorizations for their employees performing services in the United States under contracts with SCE."

The company reiterated that statement Friday, when asked for further comment.