IT workers win key ruling against visa-using firm

U.S. judge rejects dismissal of Infosys discrimination lawsuit

visa rubber stamp

A discrimination lawsuit alleging that Infosys favored "South Asian" workers over all others will not be dismissed, a federal judge has ruled.

Infosys had asked for a dismissal of the case brought by four IT workers. U.S. District Court Judge Pamela Pepper granted some of what Infosys was seeking -- but she did not rule against the central claim of discrimination on the basis of race, in a decision released this month.

This lawsuit was filed by IT workers identified as "Caucasians of American national origin," who allege that they were discriminated against because "they are not of the South Asian race or Indian, Bangladeshi or Nepalese national origin."

In her 18-page decision, Pepper wrote, in part, "that the plaintiffs' allegations are sufficient to state claims that the defendants intentionally discriminated against them because of the plaintiffs' race, and the complaint is clear that the plaintiffs regard their race as distinct from the 'South Asian race' that the defendants allegedly favor."

The Infosys lawsuit, which was filed in Wisconsin federal court in August 2013, is part of a two-pronged legal attack on the IT offshore industry. The legal team for the IT workers is also involved in a similar case against Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), alleging that this company also favored "South Asians" in hiring and promotion.

Infosys and TCS, both based in India, are two of the top users of H-1B visa workers, and these lawsuits have potential of shedding light on their use of the visa workers. The Infosys lawsuit has already revealed federal data that is otherwise kept confidential.

The plaintiffs are using government U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) workplace demographic data that is rarely made public in the absence of a court order.

This federal EEOC data required Infosys to report the demographic make-up of any location at which it employs at least 50 people, according to the lawsuit. In 2012, there were 59 worksites that met that criteria, and in 21 of those sites Infosys reported that 100% of its employees are Asian. For 53 of the 59 sites, 94.5% of the employees were Asian, the lawsuit stated.

One of the plaintiffs, Layla Bolten, claims she was harassed because she was not Indian, was denied promotions and was excluded from work conversations by Hindi-speaking supervisors. Bolten was working on a nearly $50 million government project won by Infosys for the District of Columbia.

The Infosys and Tata lawsuits are seeking class action status.

The Infosys plaintiffs' attorneys include Michael Brown of DVG Law Partner, and Robert Klinck and Daniel Kotchen of Kotchen & Low. One of the attorneys reached declined to comment for this story.

Infosys was contacted about the court ruling, but the firm typically does not comment on pending litigation.

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