On 30th June, the California regulators sued Cisco Systems Inc., accusing the company of discriminating an Indian-American employee and allowing him to be vexed by two managers because he belonged to a lower Indian caste than them.
Although the U.S. employment law does not categorise caste-based bigotry, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing disputes in the lawsuit that the lingering caste system in the Hindu faith is based on protected classes such as religion.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose does not reveal the identity of the victim. It, however, states that he is a principal engineer at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters since October 2015. Reuters confirmed that his family belongs to the Dalit community.
Cisco, like any other Silicon Valley employer, includes Indian immigrants, most of whom belong to higher castes or Brahmins.
Cisco’s former engineering managers, namely Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, defendants in the lawsuit filed, have earlier been involved in internal harassment in the company and enforcing caste hierarchy.
Cisco spokeswoman Robyn Blum said that the network gear maker have followed its process of reviewing employee matters in this case and would “vigorously defend itself” against the lawsuit.
They told Reuters, “Cisco is committed to an inclusive workplace for all.” “We were fully in compliance with all laws as well as our policies.”
Iyer and Kompella did not acknowledge requests for comment. The lawsuit cites a 2018 report by civil rights group Equality Labs that found that 67% of the people from the Dalit community who were surveyed have felt unfair treatment at their U.S. workplaces.
Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) Director Kevin Kish mentioned in a statement on 30th June that it is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be biased due to hereditary social status determined by birth.” He further said that companies must be able to anticipate, support and deter unlawful conduct against workers because of caste.
At Cisco, the anonymous employee informed Iyer to human resources in November 2016 for discrimination against him as a member of the Dalit community. Iyer allegedly requited, but Cisco settled that the caste discrimination was not illegal. The lawsuit states that issues continued through 2018.
As per the lawsuit, Cisco reassigned and separated the employee, and denied two raises and opportunities that would have led to one.