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California DFEH Sues Cisco, Former Managers For Caste-Based Discrimination

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or DFEH sued Cisco Systems, Inc. and two former managers for caste-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

In a statement, the agency said it filed a federal lawsuit alleging that managers at Cisco's San Jose headquarters campus, which employs a predominantly South Asian workforce, discriminated against an engineer because he is Dalit Indian, a population once known as the "untouchables" under India's centuries-old caste system.

According to a 2018 survey of South Asians in the U.S., 67% of Dalits were reported being treated unfairly at their American workplaces.

In the lawsuit, the DFEH alleged that the engineer was expected to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace where he held the lowest status within a team of higher-caste colleagues. The person was expected to receive less pay, fewer opportunities, and other inferior terms and conditions of employment because of his religion, ancestry, national origin/ethnicity, and race/color.

DFEH Director Kevin Kish said, "It is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth. Employers must be prepared to prevent, remedy, and deter unlawful conduct against workers because of caste."

California Assembly Bill No. 1820, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, authorizes DFEH to file lawsuits for violations of certain federal civil rights laws.

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