It is not unusual in and of itself to hear of a disgruntled employee taking revenge against their former company. But there are some key facts and lingering questions about the case of Sudhish Kasaba Ramesh which warrant some discussion about foreign workers and the American justice system.
In a nutshell, Ramesh is an Indian national who is in the United States on an H-1 visa and has a green card application pending. His current employer is the San Francisco-based online personal styling service Stitch Fix. But before that he worked as an engineer at Cisco Systems, which is one of the top users of H-1B visas, from July of 2016 until his resignation in April of 2018. This is where things get a tad murky.
While the motive is presently unknown, the crimes committed by Ramesh are quite clear. According to the guilty plea he entered in federal court last week, the foreign national admitted to the following:
- Hacking Cisco’s Amazon Web Services-hosted system
- Deleting 456 virtual machines for Cisco’s WebEx Teams application, which provided video meetings and a variety of other collaboration tools
- Causing Cisco to spend approximately $1.4 million in employee time to restore the damage to the application and refund over $1,000,000 to affected customers.
Despite admitting to intentionally engaging in criminal acts, Stitch Fix is not only keeping Ramesh on, but trying to find a way to avoid his deportation and loss of work status.
Exactly where things stand will not be known until Ramesh’s sentencing hearing in San Jose, California, in December. However, his plea agreement shows how Stitch Fix wants his case resolved.
“Although [Ramesh] and his employer recognize that his guilty plea in this case may have immigration consequences, up to and including deportation, his employer (Stitch Fix) is willing to work with him regarding the possibility of his remaining in the country and continuing to work for the company. The employer is exploring the alternatives and conducting its own consultation regarding the potential immigration/employment consequences,” reads the agreement.
But even if he is deported, for some unknown reason, Stitch Fix still wants to employ this foreign worker rather than replace him with an American citizen or even a legal immigrant without a felony on his record.
“An additional consideration is the possibility that if Mr. Ramesh is deported, he could serve any period of supervised release or probation in his native country of India, while continuing to work either for his current employer or another employer,” the filing continues.
UPDATE: A company spokesperson reached out to note that “Sudhish Ramesh no longer works at Stitch Fix” since he plead guilty. California law allows a company to terminate an employee who was been found or plead guilty, but not solely because charges have been filed.
In most circumstances, pleading guilty to hacking your former employer’s computer system, deleting files and causing almost $1.5 million in damage would be career ending. So, why is Stitch Fix fighting so hard to ensure this admitted hacker and felon remains an employee? Retaining a felon is even stranger since the company laid off a majority of its California-based “stylists” in June to save costs – something they had been planning for over a year.
Did Ramesh resign from Cisco Systems or was he pushed out the door? If the latter, was it for any reason connected to his visa status? As there is no question as to his guilt, why haven’t (as far as is publicly known) immigration enforcement authorities started deportation proceedings? Those American citizens laid off due to the pandemic or even for actions far less criminal than Ramesh’s deserve the answers to those questions.