In a new lawsuit, California accuses Cisco of allowing 2 managers to harass a fellow Indian employee from the 'untouchable' caste

The logo of US networks giant Cisco Systems is seen at their headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near ParisReuters
  • Cisco has been accused of allowing two managers to harass an Indian employee because he's from a lower caste known as "untouchables," according to a federal suit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
  • The suit, which was filed Tuesday, accuses the tech giant for failing to stop the managers from a higher Indian caste from mistreating their fellow Indian employee because he is a Dalit, known as the "most disadvantaged" caste in Indian society.
  • The employee "was expected to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace" where he "held the lowest status within the team," the suit filed before a federal district court in San Jose, California said. "They also expected him to endure a hostile work environment."
  • Cisco said it will "vigorously defend itself against the allegations," a spokesperson told Business Insider.

Cisco has been accused of allowing two managers to harass a fellow Indian employee from a disadvantaged caste known as "untouchables," according to a federal suit filed by the state of California.

Cisco is accused of failing to stop the managers from discriminating against an employee who is a Dalit Indian, known as "untouchables" from the "most disadvantaged" class in Indian society, said the suit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The two managers came from India's "highest castes," the suit said.Advertisement

The employee "was expected to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace" where he "held the lowest status within the team," the suit filed before a federal district court in San Jose, California said. "They also expected him to endure a hostile work environment."

Cisco has denied the allegations.

"Cisco will vigorously defend itself against the allegations made in this complaint," spokesperson Robyn Blum told Business Insider. "Cisco is committed to an inclusive workplace for all."
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The employee, who joined Cisco in 2015, was not identified in the complaint due to the "stigma and potential threats of violence associated with a person's status" and to protect him from "discrimination, harassment and retaliation," the suit said.

The suit said that the employee endured years of discrimination when managers disparaged him to other employees because of his caste and stripped him of key responsibilities as an engineer. The employee "received less pay, fewer opportunities, and other inferior terms and conditions of employment" because of his background. Advertisement

The employee made formal complaints to Cisco's human resources department, the suit said, but the tech giant "failed to even acknowledge the unlawful nature of the conduct, nor did it take any steps necessary to prevent such discrimination, harassment, and retaliation from continuing in its workplace."

Blum, the Cisco spokesperson, said the company has "robust processes to report and investigate concerns raised by employees which were followed in this case dating back to 2016, and have determined we were fully in compliance with all laws as well as our own policies."

Like other major Silicon Valley companies, Cisco has a sizable Indian workforce. The suit said that for decades, "Cisco's technical workforce has been—and continues to be—predominantly South Asian Indian."Advertisement

But the suit charges that the technology giant "was—and continues to be—wholly unprepared to prevent, remedy, or deter the unlawful conduct" against the employee named in the suit "or similarly situated lower caste workers."

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