The U.S. state of California filed a lawsuit against Cisco Systems Inc on June 30, for alleged caste-based workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against an Indian-American employee.
According to the lawsuit, former Cisco engineering managers Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella harassed the employee to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace where he held the lowest status within a team of higher-caste colleagues. He was denied promotions and paid less salary because of his religion, ancestry, national origin/ethnicity, and race/colour.
The lawsuit was filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing in a federal court in San Jose. The lawsuit does not name the alleged victim, but says he has been a principal engineer at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters since October 2015 and is a Dalit.
The lawsuit said Cisco engineering manager Sundar Iyer in November 2016 for “outed him as a Dalit to colleagues”. Iyer reportedly reacted, but the company was then adamant and said caste discrimination was not illegal, and the issues continued through 2018. Another former Cisco manager, Ramana Kompella, has been accused of harassment and internally enforcing the caste hierarchy.
Meanwhile, Cisco spokesperson Robyn Blum said the company is committed to an inclusive workplace for all and would “vigorously defend itself” against the lawsuit.