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'No' To Indian-Origin Workers, Women With Kids: What's the Case Against Infosys?

The suit, filed by ex-employee Jill Prejean, also alleged that the firm refused to hire those above the age of 50.

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Information Technology (IT) giant Infosys has found itself mired in a massive controversy, wherein its former vice-president of talent acquisition has sued the company in a United States (US) court, alleging a culture of bias against certain kinds of candidates.

In her lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, former VP Jill Prejean alleged that senior executives of the company directed her to not hire candidates of Indian origin, women with children, and candidates over the age of 50.
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All the Allegations Made in the Lawsuit

Prejean was hired by Infosys in 2018, when she was 59 years old, to find employees for its consulting division.

In her lawsuit against senior executives Jerry Kurtz and Dan Albright and former chief of consulting Mark Livingston, Prejean alleges that there was a "rampant culture of illegal discriminatory animus among the partner level executives based on age, gender and caregiver status," Firstpost reported.

She said that it was because of these biases that she, too, was sacked from the company.

The former employee said that she tried to "change this culture" during the first two months of her employment but faced resistance from Kurtz and Albright, who tried to "circumvent her authority in order to evade compliance with the law."

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When her new supervisor, Mark Livingston, was hired by the company, Prejean received an order to "institute such unlawful hiring criteria."

Livingston allegedly demanded that she should not hire women candidates with children or those over 50 years of age.

Eventually, Prejean's objections resulted in a "direct and immediate threat" to her job, despite her writing to human resources and explaining her plight.

She claimed that Livingston would "get angry and raise his voice" if she did not make "prohibited" and "discriminatory" inquiries of candidates, and that he treated her like his secretary.

The former VP also said that Livingston vetoed the employment of a "highly qualified female candidate because of one comment from a man."

Further, she claimed to have suffered immense economic loss, emotional distress, humiliation, anxiety, depression, and insomnia over the alleged "unlawful" actions of the company.

Infosys' Response

On the other hand, Infosys has rejected all the allegations, and filed a motion to dismiss the suit by Prejean on the grounds that she had not provided any proof of the charges levelled against the company.

However, the court rejected the company's motion, and asked them to file their reply by 21 October.

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Previous Allegations of Discrimination

This is not the first instance of discrimination allegations against the Bengaluru-based IT firm.

A former immigration chief of Infosys, Erin Green, had in June 2017 sued the company, alleging discrimination against non-Asian employees, and retaliation by the top brass.

He also questioned the basis of his termination from the company, which he had joined in 2011, and sought damages from the firm.

Ironically, while the 2017 suit alleged discrimination against non-Indians, the recent lawsuit alleges a culture of bias against Indians.

Infosys was involved in yet another controversy as recently as last year, when four female employees charged the firm of discriminating against them because of their gender.

One of the employees alleged that a senior executive had said that the company gave men more lucrative assignments because they "have families to support", whereas women "have husbands to support them", Business Insider reported.

'Culture of Bias' at IT Companies

This case is the latest in a long string of alleged unlawful practices by IT companies.

Over the years, the corps d'elite of Silicon Valley have been involved in lawsuits worth millions of dollars, filed by former employees over alleged discriminatory practices.

In June this year, Google settled a lawsuit worth $118 million over allegations that the IT giant had underpaid women employees and assigned them lower-ranking positions.

Several female employees of Google had sued the company in a San Francisco court for allegedly paying lower salaries to women who had similar qualifications and work experience as their male counterparts. The plaintiff's claimed that they were paid less than men just because they earned lower salaries at their previous jobs.

In March this year, the company was sued over alleged racial bias against African-American employees, who, the lawsuit alleged, were given lower-level jobs and less pay due to their race.

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Microsoft has also been hit with charges of discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, with allegations going all the way up to the company's founder, Bill Gates.

In a 2020 lawsuit, which has since been dropped, a former Microsoft employee alleged that the company had developed the habit of sexual discrimination against women working in engineering and technical positions.

Indian multinational Wipro has also been involved in a 'culture of bias' case, wherein five ex-employees sued the company over an "intentional pattern and practice of employment discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian or of Indian national origin".

(With inputs from Firstpost and Business Insider.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Infosys    United States   Lawsuit 

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