TCS accused of discrimination

An economics professor said there was evidence of bias in the way South Asians were terminated compared to locals


Ritu Jha


Former employees of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd told the jury in an ongoing trial at the Northern District Court of California, Oakland Division, the company discriminated against individuals who are not South Asians.

Three non-Indian employees filed the complaint in 2015: Steven Heldt, Brian Buchanan, and Christopher Slaight. It has now become a class action lawsuit covering about 1,000 employees.

The complainants alleged the company recruiters in Tata’s United States recruiting unit have been explicitly instructed to primarily hire Indians for positions in the US.

TCS is one of the largest IT outsourcing company in the US, and employs approximately 14,000 employees in the United States.

The lawsuit states that while roughly 1-2 percent of the United States population is South Asian, while approximately 95 percent of Tata’s US-based workforce is South Asian (primarily from India), primarily specialized foreign workers brought in on H-1B, L-1 and B-1 working visas. It claimed that TCS it discriminates in “local hiring,” in that even its nonvisa dependent hires in the US are still disproportionately South Asian.

US-born Steven Heldt joined Southern California Edison (SCE) in 1996 with considerable academic and work experience but was allegedly removed from a project he was well qualified for.

Heldt has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a Masters of Information Technology degree from American Inter Continental University, a security+ certification from CompTia, and the CISA, CISM, CRISC, and COBIT 5 Foundations certifications from ISACA.

Heldt alleged that over his 20 months with Tata he was transferred between five different positions, often assigned only menial responsibilities, and spent approximately 13 months “benched” with no substantive work to perform even while Tata continued to service the clients Heldt had been assigned to, using approximately 99 percent South Asian workers.

He alleged he was interviewed and was hired to assist with Tata’s servicing of Kaiser Permanente in Pleasanton, California, in Alameda County and relocated there. In addition, during periods of non-productive, benched time, Heldt interviewed – and was not hired – for positions in Northern California, including a position servicing Apple in Cupertino, California, a position servicing Cisco in Silicon Valley, and a position servicing Genetech in San Francisco.

According to Buchanan, he applied for a job with Tata yet, despite being eminently qualified, Tata failed to hire him, choosing rather to staff its SCE project with an almost 100 percent South Asian workforce.

Slaight, who started with Tata in June 2012 as a software engineer, claimed that over the following year, Tata assigned him no substantive work, benched him for several weeks and ultimately terminated him.

The lawsuit, claims that M P Saravanan, vice president of human resources, who oversees the Talent Acquisition Unit that hires people for US operations, dislikes American workers and had instructed recruiters in the unit to focus primarily on hiring Indians for positions in the US.

Meanwhile according to The Register, Professor David Neumark, a professor of economics at University of California, Irvine, testified that there were gross statistical disparities in Tata’s terminations of South Asians versus non-South Asians, based on which he said the statistical evidence is strongly consistent with discrimination and that Tata favored H-1B visa workers over local employees.

A TCS spokesperson told The Register, “TCS believes the allegations, in this case, are baseless and is confident that it will successfully defend itself. Our customers expect TCS to provide world-class talent for their technology needs. Our success is based on our ability to provide the best talent available, both in the US and globally, based purely on the individual’s specialized experience, skills and fit for each client’s specific needs. TCS also strictly adheres to all federal and state equal employment opportunity laws and regulations.”

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