San Jose, CA – California’s lawsuit against Cisco Systems Inc—a lawsuit that accuses the Silicon Valley employer of enabling caste-based discrimination and harassment against a caste-oppressed employee—will be going to mediation on May 2nd. In the latest turn of the case The California Civil Rights Department has voluntarily dismissed its case alleging caste discrimination against two Cisco engineers, while still keeping alive its litigation against the Silicon Valley tech giant.
This marks three years of historic conversation about caste equity in the United States since June of 2020 when the State of California sued Cisco Systems Inc, marking the first time that an American corporation has been sued for discrimination on the basis of caste.
The case continues to be an important historical milestone in American civil rights as we await the outcomes of the mediation. As a result of the filing of this case, thousands of caste-oppressed workers broke the silence about caste in the workplace and in educational institutions. 250 Dalits from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, and dozens of others in Silicon Valley have come forward to report discrimination, bullying, ostracization, and even sexual harassment by colleagues who are dominant caste. Additionally, 30 Dalit women engineers in Silicon Valley spoke to gender and caste bias in tech.
Caste affects access to employment, education, healthcare, housing, and other opportunities, limiting caste-oppressed communities’ ability to fully participate in society. Caste-based discrimination can lead to social exclusion, economic marginalization, and physical violence. All major industries have been affected—including restaurants, building trades, manufacturing, agriculture, finance, communications, legal and medical fields, and tech. Caste often intersects with other identities such as gender to enable sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
The Cisco case is indicative of the pervasiveness of caste hierarchy in the Indian diaspora and reflects not just one, but too many accounts of caste-based discrimination in the U.S. workforce. Whatever the findings of the mediation, caste equity has already won so much because of the courage of John Doe and the California Civil rights Department. First and foremost, Cisco has denied caste is covered in the United States and has finally added caste to its list of protected categories. And now workers around the world are speaking out about caste in their companies and the cities and countries they live in. Unions and workers’ organizations like the California Faculty Association, Alphabet Workers Union, Tech Workers for Caste Equity and many more have weighed in on caste equity and are helping to push historic legislation like the Seattle Ordinance to end caste discrimination and the new bill SB 403 to end caste in California.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Executive Director of Equality Labs remarks, “Whatever the outcome of mediation, Equality Labs stands with all caste-oppressed workers and communities who have found their voice in breaking the silence around caste discrimination and turning pain into power as they work to make all American workplaces and educational institutions safe from discrimination. We also thank the California Department of Civil Rights and John Doe for their courage and their commitment to the pursuit of this case. We also stand firmly committed to continuing the obligations of the caste equity movement to ensure that all workplaces and educational institutions are safe from caste.”