Tata on trial: Outsourcer 'discriminated' against non-Asian workers, claim American staff

Caucasian employees allege pattern of unfair treatment at Indian IT consultancy giant


India-based IT outsourcing biz Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) will finally face trial over claims that the company discriminated against workers at US facilities who were not from South Asia.

The trial, being held this week in a California courtroom, follows from claims brought in 2015 by three IT workers – Steven Heldt, Brian Buchanan, and Christopher Slaight – who allege that TSC restricted their responsibilities and fired them in violation of US employment laws. The case has been allowed to proceed as a class-action covering about 1,000 former employees who are not South Asian.

"Tata has engaged in a systematic, company-wide, pattern and practice of discriminating in favor of South Asians and against individuals who are not South Asians in hiring, job placement, and termination," the amended complaint filed in an Oakland district court states.

Let's talk statistics

About 95 per cent of Tata's approximately 14,000 workers in the US are South Asian, mostly from India, the complaint says, whereas the ethnological group only accounts for 1 to 2 per cent of the US population overall. This disproportional representation, the complaint alleges, reflects an intentional pattern of employment discrimination against workers who are not South Asian or ndian.

Tata's defense against these statistics has been to attack the validity of the figures. In a letter last year, attorneys for the company argued, "census data relating to the population as a whole says nothing about the demographics of qualified IT employees in regions where named plaintiffs worked or allegedly applied for work."

The company's legal team also attacked the methodology of a study used by the plaintiffs in their claim, but it wasn't enough to prevent the case from heading to trial.

In opposing efforts to dismiss the case, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, Washington, DC-based Kotchen & Low, presented evidence that Tata had fired more than 10 per cent of its non-South Asian workers during the time period at issue. compared to less than 1 per cent of its South Asian workers. The possibility that such skewed results could occur by random chance, according to the firm's expert, is less than one in one billion.

In an email to The Register, attorney Daniel Low summarized the trial's first day:

Today we did opening statements, presented our expert Professor David Neumark, presented three witnesses by deposition transcript, and began examination of an HR executive for Tata.

Professor Neumark testified that there were gross statistical disparities in Tata's terminations of South Asians versus non-South Asians, based on which he said the statistical evidence is strongly consistent with discrimination.

In addition to the statistical evidence, we intend to demonstrate that Tata had a leadership directive to favor H-1B visa workers over locally hired employees, along with anecdotal evidence from class representatives and class members that Non-South Asians were subjected to a hostile work environment, were replaced on client projects with less qualified Indian H-1B visa workers, and were passed over for client assignments in favor of South Asians.

In cross-examining Professor Neumark, Tata suggested that his statistical analyses were flawed because H-1B visa workers from India were rarely terminated in the U.S. but were sent back to India before being terminated, so the data regarding the terminations was flawed. Their cross-examination was surprisingly brief.

Hostility allegations against some Americans

The complaint contends that most of Tata's US-based business units are headed by South Asian individuals from India. "Among these senior managers, there is a culture of hostility towards, and non-acceptance of American workers," it says. "These senior managers have resisted efforts to increase racial and/or national origin diversity among Tata’s workforce."

As an example of managerial attitude, the complaint points to M.P. Saravanan, vice president of human resources at TSC's hiring group at the time of lawsuit was filed.

"In front of recruiters and management, Mr. Saravanan has expressed his dislike for American workers," the complaint says. "He has also stated that he believes Indians were smarter and better qualified than Americans. On at least one occasion, Mr. Saravanan gave explicit instructions to two recruiters in the Talent Acquisition Unit to hire only Indians, rather than Americans, for positions in the United States."

Asked about how TCS's alleged actions have affected the plaintiffs, Low said, "The discriminatory terminations caused emotion pain and suffering, and has negatively impacted class members' careers."

Fake news!

In a statement emailed to The Register, a spokesperson for TCS said, "TCS believes the allegations in this case are baseless and is confident that it will successfully defend itself."

"Our customers expect TCS to provide world-class talent for their technology needs. Our success is based on our ability to provide the best talent available, both in the US and globally, based purely on the individual’s specialized experience, skills and fit for each client’s specific needs. TCS also strictly adheres to all federal and state equal employment opportunity laws and regulations."

trump

Trump signs exec order signaling foreign H-1B visa techie crackdown

READ MORE

One of the ways TCS skewed its worker demographics, the complaint says, is by bringing in workers using H-1B visas and managers using L-1 visas. At the time the complaint was filed, the federal government was investigating layoffs at Southern California Edison for possible discrimination following the firm's decision to outsource some IT work to Infosys and TCS. By 2016, the probe ended without charges.

But the following year, the Justice Department issued a warning to employers seeking H-1B visas to avoid discriminating against US workers and the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) said it would tighten rules to fight H-1B visa fraud.

The tough line being taken by federal authorities has caused problems for some tech companies. Last week, Compete America, a group representing firms like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle, among others, sent a letter to USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security complaining that the government's handling of H-1B visas "wreaks havoc among the nation’s employers which are hiring high-skilled Americans and foreign-born professionals." ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021