Regulators in California, US have sued Cisco Systems citing discrimination faced by an engineer at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters for being a Dalit Indian. The engineer worked on a team at the company’s San Jose headquarters with Indian immigrants, all of whom were from a high caste, according to the lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
The “higher caste supervisors and co-workers imported the discriminatory system’s practices into their team and Cisco’s workplace,” the lawsuit says. It goes on saying that Cisco’s treatment of the employee, who is not named, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The act bans discrimination at employment based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. The lawsuit notes the employee is a Dalit Indian with a darker complexion than non-Dalit Indians.
“It is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish.
Cisco supervisors Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, also high-caste Indians, are named in the suit for discriminating and harassing the employee. The victim received less pay and fewer opportunities, and when he opposed “unlawful practices, contrary to the traditional order between the Dalit and higher castes, Defendants retaliated against him,” the lawsuit says.
Cisco did not take steps to prevent the situation, the suit adds.
The suit says:
“Iyer told coworkers that the employee was Dalit and enrolled at the Indian Institute of Technology through affirmative action. The employee connected to Cisco human relations, wanting to file a discrimination complaint against Iyer. But Iyer made changes to reduce the employee’s role in work and made him feel isolated from his coworkers.”
Kompella joined after Iyer stepped down, and continued to discriminate, harass and retaliate against the victim, the suit says. He gave him assignments that were impossible to complete under the circumstances, the suit says.
Cisco Systems Inc., a major supplier of computer networking gear, said in a statement that it is committed to an inclusive workplace. It said it has “robust processes to report and investigate concerns raised by employees,” which was followed in this case, and that it is in compliance with all laws and its own policies. The company said will defend against the allegations in the complaint.
Cisco spokeswoman Helen Saunders declined to say if Iyer and Kompella were still at Cisco, referring a reporter to LinkedIn.