Class certification sought in race discrimination suit against IT giant

In a reverse-discrimination claim, Caucasian employees and job applicants allege they were discriminated against in favor of South Asian employees.

Four plaintiffs recently filed a motion requesting that the court certify a class of plaintiffs - possibly as many as 125,000 - in a federal race discrimination lawsuit against India-based IT services company Infosys, according to Computerworld. A class action lawsuit allows those bringing the suit to stand in for numerous parties - or class members - hurt in the same way by the same defendant, preventing the necessity of many individual lawsuits across the country litigating the same questions.

In the Infosys case, the court is reportedly not expected to rule on the class certification until 2017.

Infosys is a consulting and technology company with offices around the world and across the U.S., including locally in Palo Alto and Newark, California. Computerworld says that the defendant communicated a policy not to comment on pending litigation.

The claims

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2013, makes serious, sweeping allegations of racial discrimination in employment and hiring at the company's U.S. locations in violation of federal civil rights laws.

The plaintiffs allege that Infosys discriminates illegally in hiring and employment practices against people who are not of South Asian origin, defined in the complaint as Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepalese. The federal laws under which the case was brought - called Title VII and section 1981 - allow Caucasian employees and applicants to claim so-called reverse discrimination, as in this suit.

The complaint charges that the employer commits "visa fraud" to bring numerous South Asian employees into the U.S. for jobs that could have been taken by "non-South Asians."

The complaint alleges instances when the plaintiffs were individually discriminated against in favor of South Asian employees - sometimes less qualified - in hiring, promotion, job assignments and titles, and similar aspects of employment, including allegations of job termination followed by replacement by South Asians.

The case survived a motion to dismiss in 2015, leaving claims of disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination based on race and national origin to be tried.

Broadly, disparate treatment is intentional, direct discrimination based on a protected characteristic like race. By contrast, disparate impact discrimination means the employer used an employment practice that had a discriminatory impact on a protected group of employees or applicants.

Plaintiff's California expert

Employment discrimination cases alleging disparate impact discrimination often utilize statistics as evidence. Computerworld writes that in support of the motion to certify a class, the plaintiffs submitted to the court an extensive report by David Neumark, an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine. According to Computerworld, the report states that:

  • For the relevant time period, almost 90 percent of the company's U.S. workforce was South Asian, but only about 12 percent of employees in the relevant computer field nationally were South Asian.
  • The chance that this large "disparity is due to chance ­- as opposed to a systematic difference in hiring favoring one group over the other - is ... less than 1 in 1 billion," quoting the report itself.

Seek legal counsel

Advocates for employees in discrimination and harassment matters will watch the course of this important lawsuit. Anyone who believes he or she has experienced illegal discrimination or harassment based on a protected characteristic should seek legal advice immediately to understand what legal remedies might be available under state and federal laws such as filing a claim before a government agency or court.

Do not delay. Employment discrimination claims often have strict deadlines.

The attorneys at The Armstrong Law Firm with three offices in the San Francisco Bay Area represent employees in all kinds of employment discrimination and harassment claims.