8/21/2013 1:37:00 PM,
Philip A. Janquart
(CN) - Wells Fargo & Co. did not interfere with an Indian man's rights to severance benefits by refusing to renew his immigrant visa, a federal magistrate ruled.
The bank hired Vinay Karamsetty in 2007 as a web developer, but the Indian citizen said he resigned in 2010 after the company announced it was laying off H-1B visa workers like himself.
Because of the economic climate at the time and a merger with Wachovia Mortgage, Wells Fargo had implemented a new policy ending its employer-sponsorship of immigrant visa applications and extensions.
Karamsetty claimed in his federal class action that the bank's forced resignations denied workers tens of thousands of dollars in severance benefits. Claiming that the bank violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and its own Salary Continuation Pay Plan, he sought more than $42,000 in damages.
Karamsetty also charged Wells Fargo with discrimination.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero granted the nation's second largest bank summary judgment Monday.
"Wells Fargo's decision could reflect an administrative decision merely implementing a neutral policy," Spero said. "Thus, the fact Wells Fargo determined some of those employees affected by the policy were not entitled to benefits is not itself direct evidence of discrimination."
He added: "The court finds that Wells Fargo has satisfied its burden of stating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for implementing the policy."
There is also no evidence that the policy was not a pretext to deny employees benefits, according to the 33-page ruling.
Spero said there is "insufficient evidence of pretext in the fact that Wells Fargo decided, simultaneously with its decision to implement the policy, that employees in plaintiff's position would not be eligible for severance benefits."
"This was an administrative business decision," the magistrate added. "It is unreasonable to infer from this administrative act that Wells Fargo intended to discriminate against its employees' rights to severance benefits."