3 US citizens sue TCS for alleged employment discrimination


Three US citizens from two different companies have sued Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), alleging discrimination based on race and national origin, and are seeking exemplary and punitive damages, in the latest case to bedevil India’s largest IT outsourcing company.

The complaint — filed by Darryl Stacy, Donald Stephen Bradley and Hesham Hafez in the District Court of New Jersey late last month — alleged that TCS prefers to bring in employees on visas even when there are trained US citizens and further discriminates when it hires locally by preferring Indians and South Asians.

This is the latest of a number of lawsuits to be filed against India’s largest IT outsourcing company and its peers including Infosys and HCL Technologies in the US, and comes at a sensitive time.

US President Donald Trump is a vocal opponent of immigration to his country. He has increased scrutiny on issuance of H1-B visas and his administration is in the process of withdrawing an Obama era policy that allowed spouses of H1-B visa workers to work in the US.

“TCS’ president for North America Surya Kant and vice president and head of human resources Narasimhan Srinivasan devised and implemented a nationwide ‘leadership directive’ to utilise TCS’s visa-ready South Asian employees (also known as ‘expats’) to the ‘maximum extent’ when filling US positions,” stated the complaint.

Stacy and Bradley worked for Southern California Edison, the primary electricity supply company in southern California, while Hafez worked at Royal Bank of Scotland in Connecticut. ET has accessed a copy of their 16-page filing. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and their “prayer for relief ” includes compensatory damages as well as exemplary and punitive damages.

They are represented by Kotchen &Low, the firm that is also representing some other employees of Southern California Edison in a class-action lawsuit against TCS related to discrimination in hiring. That case is being heard in the Northern District of California. A TCS spokesperson said the company “believes that the allegations by the plaintiffs are baseless, and is confident that it will successfully defend itself”.

“Indeed, the federal court in California previously rejected a class-action for hiring discrimination by the same law firm concerning TCS’ hiring practices, citing the same issues,” the spokesperson told ET in an email. The person said TCS is an equal opportunity employer, and as such, bases its employment decisions — including recruiting, hiring, promotions, retention, and discipline — on legitimate non-discriminatory business reasons.

While the lawsuits are ongoing, TCS and other Indian IT companies are facing tremendous pressure over hiring locally in the US. Infosys and HCL Technologies are both facing lawsuits over discrimination of US citizens by the same law firm. Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm Law Quest International, said such cases can prove tricky for the Indian firms.

“If the case were to reach jury trial, the facts and evidence would be presented to a judge and jury. The jury would comprise of members of the public, ‘peers’ of the plaintiffs. In such cases, juries can be very sympathetic toward employees, often because their complaint resonates with the ‘peers’ in some way,” she told ET.

Several times companies settle such cases by paying plaintiffs large amounts of money, Chothani said. Cases against Indian IT Indian companies have fared differently in the US. In 2016, a US citizen, Karen Hawks, had sued TCS for alleged race, gender and national origin discrimination. That case was dismissed with prejudice in February 2017.

A class action suit filed by employees at Southern California Edison in 2015 is currently in pre-trial motions, though TCS has been able to split away some members of the class.



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