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Ambedkar International Center files amicus brief in the Cisco caste bias lawsuit

The hearing for Cisco’s demurrer and motion to strike is scheduled on March 9, 2021.

February 23, 2021 / 07:27 PM IST
6 | Cisco (Image: Reuters)

6 | Cisco (Image: Reuters)

The US-based organisation Ambedkar International Center filed a brief opposing Cisco’s demurrer and motion to strike, which challenges the legality of the caste bias lawsuit filed against it last year.

The hearing for Cisco’s demurrer and motion to strike is scheduled on March 9, 2021.

The Ambedkar International Center, Inc (AIC) said in a statement that the brief would help the court rule on Cisco’s motions by shedding light on the nature of caste discrimination.

Cisco caste bias lawsuit

On June 30, 2020, a lawsuit alleging caste discrimination was filed against the US-based tech major Cisco. The lawsuit accused two upper-caste Brahmins, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, of harassing the Dalit worker, referred to as John Doe to protect his identity, in their capacity as managers.

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Cisco was sued for allegedly denying the worker, who immigrated to the US from India, raises and professional opportunities as well as making him “endure a hostile work environment”. The lawsuit was filed by Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

In response to this, on October 16, 2020, Cisco filed demurrer and motion of strike, on grounds that the lawsuit does not have legal merits and made ambiguous claims.

The petition said the lawsuit was based on a single complaint and had not alleged any wrongdoing against “any other lower caste individuals, and none of the claims alleged harm suffered by any third parties”. It further added that the lawsuit did not specify any incidents where Doe’s performance was misrepresented and the alleged denial of rate occurred in October 2016, before Doe complained.

Amicus curiae brief

The amicus curiae brief filed by the Ambedkar International Center, Inc. (AIC), which Moneycontrol has reviewed, said while the American civil rights law has little experience with the South Asian caste system, it is familiar with the idea of caste, where some people are born to low stations in life in which they are forced to remain.

“The intent of the Fourteenth Amendment was to abolish caste legislation, and the intent of civil rights laws such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act was to abolish casteism of all kinds in the private sector. By banning employment discrimination on the basis of ancestry, race, and colour, the FEHA bars employers from discriminating against a worker because he is a Dalit. Cisco’s demurrer and motion to strike should accordingly be overruled,” the brief said.

Apart from the AIC, 19 organisations and scholars have supported this brief.

An email has been sent to Cisco on the same and the story will be updated when the company responds. 
Swathi Moorthy
first published: Feb 23, 2021 07:27 pm

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