California regulators sued Cisco Systems Inc for caste-based discrimination against Indian-American employee

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The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a federal lawsuit today under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII), and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), against Cisco Systems, Inc. (Cisco) and two managers for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

The lawsuit alleges that managers at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters campus, which employs a predominantly South Asian workforce, harassed, discriminated, and retaliated against an engineer because he is Dalit Indian, a population once known as the “untouchables” under India’s centuries-old caste system. A 2018 survey of South Asians in the U.S. found that 67% of Dalits reported being treated unfairly at their American workplaces.

The lawsuit alleges that Complainant was expected to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace where he held the lowest status within a team of higher-caste colleagues, receiving less pay, fewer opportunities, and other inferior terms and conditions of employment because of
his religion, ancestry, national origin/ethnicity, and race/color.

“It is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “Employers must be prepared to prevent, remedy, and deter unlawful conduct against workers because of caste.”

On January 1, 2020, California Assembly Bill No. 1820 went into effect, authorizing DFEH to file lawsuits for violations of certain federal civil rights laws, including Title VII. Chief Counsel Janette Wipper, Senior Staff Counsel Siri Thanasombat, and Staff Counsel Jeanette Hawn represent DFEH in this matter. The case is captioned Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc., et al., Case No. 5:20-cv-04374 (Northern
District of California).

News reported in Reuters mentioned , ” California regulators sued Cisco Systems Inc on Tuesday, accusing it of discriminating against an Indian-American employee and allowing him to be harassed by two managers because he was from a lower Indian caste than them..”

“The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Jose, does not name the alleged victim. It states he has been a principal engineer at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters since October 2015 and that he was born at the bottom of caste hierarchy as a Dalit, once called “untouchables”,” Reuters news added.

Twitter user reacted to news and one of user quoted , “California has sued Cisco for caste discrimination against a Dalit. Two employees from privileged castes mentally harassed a Dalit & twice denied him promotion. Indians take their caste wherever they go. You cannot take caste out of Hinduism.”

Santosh Daas , Human Rights and Equality campaigner tweeted , ” We have a #CasteDiscrimination problem here in the UK too. Good on #California for taking action. We have a law agreed in @HouseofCommons in 2013 on Caste Discrimination but @BorisJohnson won’t implement it. ”

Source : DFEH

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