Saras America, a technology consulting company based in Michigan, imported Indian immigrants to the United States for specific tech jobs but then failed to compensate them when no work was available or while they were waiting for their next assignments, federal regulators found. The company required the temporary tech workers to officially “report to work,” but didn’t pay them – for up to five months. Saras is among the few niche recruitment companies that got into trouble for mistreating Indian workers – and yet it continued to survive and thrive.
Regulators crack down
In 2008, investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor recommended that the Michigan-based company be assessed penalties: hefty fines and exclusion from the H-1B visa program.
The company appealed the decision to a judge. The Labor Department agreed to reduce the amount Saras owed in fines and back wages to about $275,000. The federal agency also abandoned its recommendation to blacklist the company from the H-1B program.
Saras lands a contract
In September 2010, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration hired Saras to help modernize its computer systems. The $700,000 agreement was Saras’ first federal contract.
“Perhaps it was pure luck – perhaps it was just happenstance,” Stephen Scruggs, Saras’ vice president of sales and marketing, wrote on a federal contracting forum. He advised other firms to pursue government contracts with similar zeal: “Get out there and make it happen.”
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Case study: Saras America
by Jennifer Gollan and Matt Smith, Reveal October 27, 2014
Jennifer Gollan is an award-winning reporter. Her investigation When Abusers Keep Their Guns, which exposed how perpetrators often kill their intimate partners with guns they possess unlawfully, spurred sweeping provisions in federal law that greatly expanded the power of local and state police and prosecutors to crack down on abusers with illegal firearms. The project won a 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and has been nominated for a 2022 Emmy Award.
Gollan also has reported on topics ranging from oil companies that dodge accountability for workers’ deaths to shoddy tire manufacturing practices that kill motorists. Her series on rampant exploitation and abuse of caregivers in the burgeoning elder care-home industry, Caregivers and Takers, prompted a congressional hearing and a statewide enforcement sweep in California to recover workers’ wages. Another investigation – focused on how Navy shipbuilders received billions in public money even after their workers were killed or injured on the job – led to tightened federal oversight of contractors’ safety violations.
Gollan’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Guardian US and Politico Magazine, as well as on PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera English’s “Fault Lines” program. Her honors include a national Emmy Award, a Hillman Prize for web journalism, two Sigma Delta Chi Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, a National Headliner Award, a Gracie Award and two Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing awards. Gollan is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Matt Smith is a reporter for Reveal, covering religion. Smith's two-decade career in journalism began at The Sacramento Union in California. He went on to positions at newspapers in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Twin Falls, Idaho; Fairfield, California; and Newport News, Virginia. Between 1994 and 1997, Smith covered Latin America as a reporter in Dow Jones & Co.'s Mexico City bureau. For 14 years, he was a lead columnist at Village Voice Media in San Francisco. He came to Reveal from The Bay Citizen. Smith holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Before his career in journalism, Smith was a professional bicycle racer. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.