BIRDS OF A FEATHER

A former executive is accusing Infosys of racism that favours Indians

Obsession
The Office
Quartz india
Obsession
The Office
Quartz india

A former senior executive at Infosys has accused Indian software major Infosys of a racist bias that favours Indian techies over others.

Erin Green, who worked at Infosys’s Texas office from October 2011 to July 2016, has alleged that his former employer tilted the scales too far towards Indians in its 200,000-strong workforce in the US. In a lawsuit filed (paywall) with the district court in eastern Texas on June 19, Green cites the lack of diversity at the firm as proof of discrimination:

While roughly 1% of the US population is of the South Asian race and national origin, roughly 93%-94% of Infosys’s United States workforce is of the South Asian national origin (primarily Indian). This disproportionately South Asian and Indian workforce, by race and national origin, is a result of Infosys’s intentional employment discrimination against individuals who are not South Asian, including discrimination in the hiring, promotion, compensation, and termination of individuals.

In 2013, India’s second-largest IT firm took a $34 million hit—the largest ever payment in a visa case—after a Texas court found the behemoth guilty of “systemic visa fraud and abuse.”

Although Green doesn’t explicitly address the potential misuse of visas at Infosys, he suggests that the predominance of Indians is not simply a product of meritocracy. Green, the former global head of immigration who has previously spoken out about the detrimental effect of curbing H-1B visas on the US tech sector, is accusing Infosys of using the very same work visas to replace or supplant non-south Asians at the company. Green has called for a trial by jury.

Blinded by colour

Apparently, trouble began after Green’s transfer to the global immigration team led by Vasudeva Nayak in 2013. In his complaint, Green makes serious allegations against the supervisor of stripping him of his responsibilities and passing on immigration- and compliance-related roles to “less experienced, lower level South Asian employees in India…or peer level South Asian managers in India who were consistently added to the US team with no prior US immigration experience.”

Since then, the lawsuit claims, “…Plaintiff (Green) was not promoted, and no white or black employees on Plaintiff’s teams were ever promoted, progressed, or given salary increases.” Only the careers of south Asians progressed. Binod Hampapur, whom Nayak reported to, is also called out in the complaint for not curbing the discrimination.

In March 2015, Green filed an internal discrimination complaint to no avail. Instead, in August 2015, Nayak gave Green his lowest performance rating during his four-year tenure at Infosys—a sign of retaliation by the senior management in Green’s view.

He escalated the matter in September 2015, filing an internal complaint with Infosys’s employee relations team. Even after a nearly year-long probe, there was no resolution. Green’s employment was terminated on the grounds that he used “his work computer for personal use a number of years earlier.” However, Green believes his firing had more to do with the company’s “obsessional preference for employees of South Asian race and national origin, usually Indian, and as retaliation for reporting Nayak and Hampapur’s discriminatory treatment of himself and others on the basis of race and national origin.”

Infosys declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Balancing act

The numbers do show the outsized presence of Indians. Of all nationalities, Indians were the recipients of the highest number (pdf) of US H-1B employment visas in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, they captured 72% of H-1B visas issued.

Although each of these hires may be a deserving candidate, experts have warned against the “halo effect,” the tendency to hire someone with a background and credentials that mirror the hiring officer’s or existing team members’ records.

A number of companies in the US have come under fire for opting for cheaper Indian talent over equally qualified locals in a bid to cut costs. Earlier this year, Larry Ellison’s $160 billion California-based software giant Oracle was sued (pdf) by the US department of labor for wage violations and hiring bias “against qualified white, Hispanic, and African-American applicants in favor of Asian applicants, particularly Asian Indians.” In 2015, a former Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) employee accused the company of “anti-American sentiment” and south Asian bias in its hiring practices. Several Quora users have also attested to cronyism among Indian employees at big name companies like Cisco, Qualcomm, Microsoft, HCL, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, and others.

For Infosys, the recent complaint comes at a time when its US-based CEO, Vishal Sikka, has vowed to ramp up hiring in America amid US president Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” push.

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