Employer Sued for Discrimination Based on Employee Caste

The state of California sued employer Cisco Systems last month, accusing the company of discriminating against an Indian-American employee and allowing continued harassment by two supervisors because the employee was of a lower caste. While the United States does not engage in the caste system, companies with a large number of international employees may encounter similar situations in the workplace. If you have been harassed at work because of your caste, you may have a claim for compensation for discrimination in the workplace. To learn more about your legal options, call or contact an experienced California employment law attorney today.

Facts of the Case

In this case, the state of California regulators claim that the harassed employee is a principal engineer at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters who has been employed since 2015 and was born a member of the Dalit caste. The Dalit caste in India is considered “untouchable” and the lowest caste in society. The company’s workforce in California is made up of many employees from India, the majority of whom are from the higher castes. Two supervisors are also named in the lawsuit for harassing the employee and for internally enforcing the caste system at Cisco.

According to the complaint, the employee in question reported one of the supervisors in 2016 for outing the employee as a member of the Dalit caste to other colleagues. The supervisor allegedly retaliated but the company did nothing, and issues continued through 2018. In addition, Cisco reassigned and isolated the employee, rejected a raise, denied an opportunity that would have led to a promotion, and denied the employee two other promotions.

United States Employee Discrimination Laws

The United States does not have a law that specifically bars discrimination based on caste, but it does protect against employee discrimination based on religion. In this case, the state of California claims that the caste system is based on the Hindu faith, and therefore by discriminating based on caste, the company is in fact discriminating based on religion. The Hindu faith has four main castes that are based on ancestry, but caste-based discrimination was banned by India 65 years ago.

However, people born into the Dalit caste still struggle to have equal access to education and jobs. There are many employees in the United States that are from the Dalit caste, and a report in 2018 from Equality Labs found that two-thirds of Dalit-born workers felt that they were treated unfairly in their U.S. workplaces. In this case, the employer Cisco initially claimed that caste discrimination was not illegal, which led to this employment law case against them.

Speak with an Employment Law Attorney

Have you or a fellow employee been subject to harassment based on caste? If so, you may have a claim for discrimination based on religion in the United States. To learn more about your legal options for filing a discrimination claim, call or contact an employment law attorney in California today.