U.S. man sues TCS for pro-Indian bias

April 17, 2015 11:23 am | Updated November 16, 2021 08:04 pm IST - Washington

File photo shows an employee of the Tata Consultancy Services at the company headquarters in Mumbai.

File photo shows an employee of the Tata Consultancy Services at the company headquarters in Mumbai.

An American national and former employee of Indian IT major Tata Consultancy Services Ltd has sued the company for alleged bias in recruitment and work allocation that favoured workers of Indian descent in the U.S.

In his lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week in the San Francisco division of the Northern District Court of California, Steven Heldt accused Tata of discrimination as nearly 95 per cent of the company’s 14,000-odd U.S. workforce was of South Asian, primarily Indian, origin.

His complaint charges the company with violating federal civil rights law as it had an “intentional pattern and practice of employment discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian, including discrimination in hiring, placement, and termination decisions.”

Tata’s employment of Mr. Heldt, who self-identifies as Caucasian, was terminated in March 2014, the complaint said, after nearly two years during which he was transferred to five different, often to “menial” roles that were not commensurate with his “advanced skill and experience.”

Ben Trounson, a Tata spokesman, said to Reuters news agency that Tata was “confident that Mr. Heldt's allegations are baseless, and plans to vigorously defend itself.”

Mr. Trounson added that the company based its employment decisions on “legitimate non-discriminatory business reasons,” without regard to race or national origin.

The Tata case comes close on the heels of a hearing on Capitol Hill last month where companies obtaining H-1B visas for highly skilled employees came under fire from two Congressmen and a group of labour protection specialists testified who told the U.S. Congress that the entire programme was “highly susceptible to fraud and abuse.”

At the hearing the Senators in attendance also heard on alleged visa abuse from Jay Palmer, the whistleblower in the Infosys visa fraud case, which resulted in the largest visa fraud settlement in US history, $34 million.

In the Tata lawsuit Mr. Heldt echoed a similar experience when he said that there was “substantial anti-American sentiment” at Tata, including from a human resources manager who allegedly called Americans “selfish and demanding” and said “I don't like dealing with Americans.”

During his 20 months working for the company he was also told that he would have difficulty finding work within Tata because he was American, and that Tata was not even looking for Americans to hire.

Pressing for a class-action status for Tata workers and other non-South-Asian job applicants in the U.S. on behalf of Mr. Heldt, his attorney Daniel Kotchen was quoted saying, “The experience of Mr. Heldt is representative of what is happening across the country at Tata… We believe it reflects a broad preference toward a specific race and national origin, and that any such preference violates U.S. anti-discrimination laws.”

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