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Infosys must face claims it told recruiter not to hire women with kids 'at home'

Attempts to dismiss suit denied as former staffer alleges she was expressly told to swerve over-50s

A US judge has rejected IT outsourcer Infosys's motions to dismiss claims of a former recruiter that the company discriminated and retaliated against her.

Jill Prejean, a specialist at recruiting hard-to-find executives, says she was hired by Infosys in 2018 at the age of 59 to find workers for its $1 billion-a-year consulting division.

In an amended complaint [PDF] filed in September last year, Prejean also names a former CEO of its consulting division and two company vice presidents along with the company. She alleges that, upon joining, she found Infosys had a "rampant culture of illegal discriminatory animus among the partner level executives based on age, gender and caregiver status."

She claims in the filing that she "tried to change this culture within the first two months of her employment" but was met with "resistance from [then Infosys partners Jerry] Kurtz and [Dan] Albright, who became hostile in the face of her objections and sought to circumvent her authority in order to evade compliance with the law" when she met with them to establish at Infosys's hiring needs and preferences.

The complaint goes on to claim that when a new supervisor, Infosys's former head of consulting, Mark Livingston, was hired, she "received an order to institute such unlawful hiring criteria," and that her objections "resulted in a direct and immediate threat to her job, and ultimately did cost her job."

Specifically, she alleges, Livingston demanded that Prejean should "not put forward candidates for jobs who were over 50 years of age and women who had children at home."

She goes on to claim that Livingston, who supervised her, would "get angry and raise his voice" when she refused to make "prohibited, discriminatory inquiries of candidates"; that he "treated her like a secretary"; and that he vetoed the hiring of a "highly qualified female candidate because of one comment from a man."

According to the court docs filed last week, Livingston is alleged to have learned from another man whom the female candidate had supervised that the candidate had "corrected the man" and that man therefore disliked her.

Prejean is claiming the company and the execs broke New York City Human Rights Law when Kurtz and Albright "expressly stated" their discriminatory hiring preferences to her; claiming that they, along with Livingston, "engaged in a concerted campaign of harassment, intimidation, and threats to... her job"; and "on a weekly basis ... reiterated their displeasure with Plaintiff not discriminating against candidates and their desire to fire her."

The judge late last week [PDF] denied three motions to dismiss the complaint from the co-defendants, one from Infosys and Livingston; one from Albright; and one from Kurtz. All state there was a lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim – pointing out that Prejean, who had fitted the criteria when she was hired, "insufficiently alleged that her own protected characteristics motivated their actions."

Dismissing the motions, the judge pointed out that Prejean had alleged that while she worked at Infosys she was "repeatedly urged ... not to hire candidates approaching the age of 50 or women with caregiving responsibilities – both expressions that bear on her own protected characteristics."

Livingston, Kurtz, and Albright's primary defenses, says the judge, are that none of the interactions that Prejean describes happened.

We have asked Infosys to comment.

The case continues. ®

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