Indian Firm Accused of Bias in U.S. Hiring

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Tata Consultancy Services, one of the largest IT employers in the world, hires South Asians on visas for 95% of its U.S. workforce, a class action claims in Federal Court.
“Tata has engaged in a systematic, company-wide pattern and practice of discriminating in favor of South Asians and against individuals who are not South Asians in hiring, job placement, and termination,” Steven Heldt says in his April 14 complaint. Tata is the only defendant.
Heldt accuses it of threefold discrimination: hiring 95% of its workers, most of them from India, on H-1B, L-1 and B-1 visas; hiring a disproportionate number of local South Asian workers; and discriminating against non-South Asians in promotions and firings.
Heldt says that Tata made more than $13 billion last fiscal year, more than half of it from North America, and the “vast majority” from the United States.
Heldt, an Army veteran, claims that throughout his tenure with Tata, 99 percent of its employees were South Asian; they were assigned more substantive work than he and were allowed to transfer to jobs in different business units, or “verticals.”
Within a week of starting work as a project manager providing IT services to Kaiser Permanente in 2012, he was removed from his job position and given one with lesser duties, Heldt says. A few months later, he says, was taken off the Kaiser account and given no more client work. He claims that his Indian supervisor, Mohan Reddy, told him it would be difficult for him to find Heldt a new position because he is American.
After a brief stint with Tata in Louisville, Heldt returned to California with moving expenses of more than $21,000. He claims Tata’s HR manager refused to reimburse him for the full amount, saying, “‘Americans need to start getting in line [with Tata] and stop being so selfish and demanding.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
The complaint continues: “He also stated that Americans demand too much and do not do their jobs correctly. He also criticized Americans for trying to ‘exercise their rights.’ During this conversation, Mr. Malladi also stated, ‘This is why I don’t like dealing with Americans.'”
In 2013, Heldt says, he had a conversation with manager Saikat Gosh, who was looking to fill an open position in his group but “was waiting for a South Asian employee to become available to fill the position.” Gosh told him, “Tata was not even looking for Americans to fill the position,” Heldt says.
Eventually, he was given a job as an IT project manager for Farmers Insurance Group. “This position did not involve work commensurate with Mr. Heldt’s advanced skill and experience. Of the approximately 100 Tata employees assigned to Farmers Insurance, Mr. Heldt was the only non-South Asian. Mr. Heldt was stripped of his position in December 2013 and again benched,” the complaint states.
Heldt says he was fired in March 2014, “as he had been on the bench for 3 months.”
Heldt’s attorney Daniel Kotchen told Courthouse News that Tata’s discrimination was “certainly manifested in how Mr. Heldt was treated and the data in their employee hires.”
“We expect that our claims that Tata has discriminated based on race and national origin will be supported by the evidence, including available statistics indicating that Tata disproportionately hires and retains South Asians. We look forward to presenting the facts to a jury, and are hopeful that this lawsuit will help prevent discrimination going forward.”
Tata spokesman Ben Trounson said in an email: “TCS is confident that Mr. Heldt’s allegations are baseless, and plans to vigorously defend itself against his claims.” He added: “TCS is among the top job creators in the US within the IT services industry, and in the last year alone actively recruited more than 2,600 U.S. hires, many of whom are working on technologies and systems that support critical client needs and help to drive America’s innovation economy.”
Heldt seeks class certification, a permanent injunction, back pay and damages and punitive damages for civil rights violations and discrimination.”We would hope that’s he’s able to help deter discrimination going forward at Tata,” Kotchen said.
Kotchen works with Daniel Low as Kotchen and Low, in Washington, D.C.

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