Cisco employees seek compensation for damages over caste discrimination lawsuit

Cisco Systems' employees claim CRD's lawsuit against their company "hindered our careers and left a damaging scar on many lives."

A group of thirty employees of Cisco Systems have written an open letter to the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) claiming that they and their employer were targeted in an unfair lawsuit. The letter states that the reputation of employers engaging South Asians has been damaged as a result of the lawsuit.

Two Cisco supervisors of Indian descent, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, were accused of discriminating and harassing a Dalit employee based on caste, in CRD’s lawsuit. Dalits are placed at the lowest echelons of society in India and other South Asian countries. The suit was filed in July 2020, and alleged that the Dalit employee received fewer opportunities than others, less pay and faced opposition in the workplace.

The lawsuit led to the introduction of a bill that if passed could make California the first in the U.S. to outlaw caste-based bias. CRD voluntarily dismissed the case against Iyer and Kompella in April 2023 but stated that litigation against Cisco was ongoing. The letter said the highly publicized case by the CRD resulted in employees especially immigrant South Asians being deemed responsible for degrading the culture at Cisco.

The employees in the letter said, the lawsuit “hindered our careers and left a damaging scar on many lives,” adding that some employees were being avoided in social settings by people in fear of being subject to discrimination. It further states that employees endured questioning based on their ethnic backgrounds during the investigation which took an emotional toll on them, and some colleagues including those on visas, were prompted to leave the U.S.

‌‌“It is imperative that the CRD take a public stance to exonerate Cisco employees of any implied guilt and help restore their reputations,” the letter stated. Additionally, the employees requested Cisco Systems to actively pursue restitution on their behalf.

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