Lawsuit: Indy company tampered with witnesses

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis staffing company is facing new allegations in a motion filed in federal court.

According to court documents, Access Therapies engaged in witness tampering, calling H-1B employee witnesses and telling them to ignore a court-ordered email production request.

Access Therapies has an office on West 71st Street in Indianapolis, and according to its website, it provides health care staffing to hospitals, schools and other facilities using H-1B visa sponsorships to hire workers from India, the Philippines and other foreign countries.

The new filing is part of a lawsuit filed by former Access Therapies worker Rituraj Singh Panwar, and it also lists manager Ramon Villegas and affiliates RN Staff Inc., Rehability Care as defendants.

"As a result of this witness tampering, these workers did not produce emails," said Michael Brown , attorney for legal foreign workers. "There are severe penalties under the law if the court finds that was the case, that there was witness tampering."

The company is accused of abusing legal foreign workers and violating federal labor laws.

"Defendants testified that they tend not to communicate with H-1B employees by email and that their communications are typically 'done through the phones' where 'there's no written record,'" read the motion, filed March 18. "Defendants in fact extensively communicated with H-1B employees by email, including emails concerning non-payment or underpayment of wages."

According to the motion, of the 84 employees who were requested to produce emails, Access Therapies produced only 16 emails from a single H-1B employee.

American companies are supposed to use H-1B visas to bring in skilled foreign labor when they can't find Americans to do the work.

According to the federal lawsuit, Access Therapies does not pay its employees prevailing wages as required by law.

Panwar's attorneys allege Access Therapies engaged in a "fraudulent enterprise" and violated federal anti-trafficking and forced labor laws as well as Indiana's state wage laws.

"It's an abuse of the employee as well as an abuse of the entire system," Vonda Vandaveer, one of the attorneys for Panwar, said last year

Attorneys for Panwar are seeking a class action lawsuit and say about 100 workers could be impacted.

Panwar's attorneys claim Access Therapies frequently does not have work for its employees despite the visas, which they say is hurting the American economy.

"We don't want people to come over here to the country and sit and be idle and not be working jobs and be controlled by an employer located in the United States and for that employer to profit on that scenario," said Brown, one of Panwar's attorneys, who represents visa workers. "Mr. Panwar alleges specifically in his complaint he was not paid during his wait time when he was available to work and willing to work in the U.S."

Vandaveer explained the H-1B visas are most often used by the IT and health care industries.

"There's a limit on the number of visas issued each year," Vandaveer said. "So this employer who said they have a job for this employee, in fact, does not have a job available and has used up one of the precious visas for a position that didn't exist."

The Call 6 Investigators examined court records and found dozens of pending cases in Marion County in which Access Therapies is listed as the plaintiff.

"The exploitation of these foreign workers amounts to a modern day version of indentured servitude," said Welsh.

In January 2013, the Call 6 Investigators stopped by Access Therapies office on West 71st Street.

Manager Ramon Villegas, who is named in the federal lawsuit, told RTV6 the allegations are not true and deferred to the company's attorney.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reached out to attorneys for Access Therapies for comment this week and did not hear back.

A 2010 letter from the U.S. Department of Labor to Access Therapies said the company failed to pay wages as required and cooperate with their investigation.

"Your firm owes back wages in the amount of $1,012,306.08 to fifty-three H-1B nonimmigrants," read the letter. "Your firm is liable for any ongoing violations."

When contacted for an update on the case involving Access Therapies this week, a Department of Labor spokesperson was unable to provide any new information.

Print this article Back to Top