By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
SAN FRANCISCO (Worthy News) – U.S. tech giants are under pressure to tackle India’s ancient Hindu caste system after several employees said their careers were cut short by their ‘low caste’ backgrounds.
Since California’s employment regulator sued Cisco Systems in June 2020, companies have updated their discrimination policies, Worthy News monitored.
The lawsuit came on behalf of a low-caste engineer who accused two higher-caste bosses of blocking his career.
Fearing similar legal action Apple, the world’s biggest listed company, has since updated its general employee conduct policy to prohibit discrimination based on caste explicitly.
The company added it alongside existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age, and ancestry. The new category’s inclusion, which hasn’t been previously reported, goes beyond U.S. discrimination laws that do not explicitly ban casteism, Reuters news agency noted.
Cisco, which denies wrongdoing, says an internal probe found no evidence of discrimination. Some of the allegations are baseless because caste is not a legally “protected class” in California, the networking company stressed.
However, this month an appeals panel rejected Cisco’s bid to push the case to private arbitration, meaning a public court case could come as early as next year.
The dispute – the first U.S. employment lawsuit about alleged casteism – has forced Big Tech to confront a millennia-old hierarchy.
In many cases, Indians’ social position has been based on family lineage, from the top Brahmin “priestly” class to the Dalits, shunned as “untouchables” and consigned to menial labor.
While India claims to have outlawed the caste system 70 years ago, in many areas, attacks against Dalits continue, especially against those becoming Christians, Worthy News established. Dalit people also remain underrepresented in higher-paying jobs.
Policies reserving seats for lower-caste students at top Indian universities have helped at least some to land tech jobs in the West in recent years. But India’s ongoing caste prejudices have had repercussions for Dalits now working abroad, including in the United States, investigations show.
Reuters said it spoke to about two dozen Dalit tech workers in the United States who said discrimination had followed them overseas.
They explained that caste cues, including their last names, hometowns, diets, or religious practices, had led to colleagues bypassing them in hiring, promotions, and social activities.
Two said they had quit their jobs over what they viewed as casteism. While several tech companies claim to tackle caste discrimination, their efforts have produced patchy results among the hundreds of thousands of workers employed from India.
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