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Court case offers a peek at how H-1B-fueled discrimination works

One-third of Infosys worksites have 100% Asian workers, lawsuit alleges

July 10, 2014 04:53 PM ET

Computerworld - The passage of the Affordable Care Act brought with it a burst of IT spending and hiring. The District of Columbia, for instance, hired offshore outsourcing firm Infosys for $49.5 million to build its Healthcare Exchange.

The India-based Infosys brought in H-1B visa holders to work on the government project. And of the approximately 100 Infosys employees working on the healthcare project, only three were American, according to a civil lawsuit filed in federal court.

The IT professional making the claim, Layla Bolten, has a degree in computer science and has been in IT since 1996. An experienced tester, which is what she was hired for, Bolten often helped less-experienced staff.

But the lawsuit contends Bolten was harassed because she was not Indian and excluded from work conversations by supervisors who spoke Hindi. People with less experience were promoted over her, and she eventually quit.

Bolten is one of four IT workers from around the country suing Infosys for "ongoing national origin and race discrimination." The lawsuit claims that "roughly 90%" of Infosys workforce is South Asian, the result of "intentional employment discrimination."

Infosys has filed a motion for dismissal on a number of technical and legal claims. The case awaits a ruling on that motion from a judge in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, where the suit was filed late last year.

Infosys officials were asked for comment beyond the dismissal request but did not immediately respond.

Whether this lawsuit is eventually dismissed, settled out of court, or goes to trial, is another matter. But the case offers insight into a contentious issue that is central to the ongoing H-1B debate.

Discrimination by race, age and sex is the leading criticism leveled at the H-1B visa program. The plaintiffs in this particular case are only making a claim of discrimination by national origin, and their case presents new facts to support itself.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission collects workplace data from employers with more than 100 employees. This data is kept confidential, unless it comes out in a court case or is voluntarily disclosed.

While few companies disclose this information, some tech companies are starting to do so. In May, Google released its workplace data, which is otherwise known as the Employer Information Report or EEO-1. It showed that 30% of its employees are women, 61% are white, 30% are Asian, 4% are of two or more races, 3% are Hispanic, and 2% are black.

When it released the data, Google said in a statement: "We're not where we want to be when it comes to diversity. And it is hard to address these kinds of challenges if you're not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts."



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