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Cognizant Seeks Quashing of Lawsuit Alleging Anti-American Employee Bias

Cognizant office in Coimbatore, India

Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. has said that the civil rights lawsuit filed against the company by American workers who accuse it of bias against employees who aren’t Indian, is wrong. The laid-off employees allege that they were fired and replaced by “less qualified” South Asian employees.

At least three former American employees — Christy Palmer, Edward Cox, Vartan Piroumian — accused the firm of forcing them out of their jobs. They said they were treated poorly by Indian supervisors and colleagues, denied promotions and were given low-performance ratings. according to Bloomberg. The case was filed in September 2017 and the information technology giant could face a class action.

The plaintiffs have accused the company of using fraudulent H-1B visa applications to secure South Asian workers from overseas, giving them preference to over American workers. Even when making local hires, the company favors South Asians, the complaint said. South Asians are also given more promotions than their non-South Asian counterparts and it the company non-South Asians at disproportionately high rates. At least 75 per cent (if not more) of Cognizant’s employees are South Asian, despite South Asians making up about 12 per cent of the American IT Industry, the complaint said.

Cognizant contends that the accusations against the firm are not covered by federal civil rights law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, but plaintiffs’ factual allegations, on their face, plainly pertain to a claim of discrimination based on national origin — not race,” Cognizant said in a court filing. It also said that the complaint is clearly targeted at “visa holders, but visa-status allegations have nothing to do with race.”

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said on March 15 in Los Angeles that she would rule on Cognizant’s request to dismiss the claims without a hearing.

Cognizant is the biggest United States-based sponsor of H-1B visas, and received received 29,000 H-1B visas in 2017. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) received the second most number of H-1B visas, according to the Department of Homeland Services.

Cognizant isn’t the only IT firm that has been accused of preferring Indian employees.

TCS faced a similar lawsuit in 2017. The California judge rejected a request from TCS to dismiss a 2015 lawsuit accusing it of violating anti-discrimination laws by favoring South Asians. The case was expanded into a class action lawsuit.

The law firm representing disgruntled TCS and Cognizant employees is also accusing Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd., two other IT outsourcing firms, of similar practices.

While TCS, Infosys and Wipro are headquartered in India, Cognizant is based out of Teaneck, New Jersey.