Class in California: Apple confronts India’s archaic hierarchy

America’s tech giants are taking a course on the modern-day collapse of India’s ancient caste system, with Apple emerging as an early leader in policies aimed at eliminating remove Silicon Valley from a rigid hierarchy that Indians have segregated for generations.

America’s tech giants are entering the modern era accident in India’s archaic caste system, with Apple emerging as an early leader in exclusionary policies Silicon Valley of a rigid hierarchy that segregated Indians for generations.

AppleThe world’s largest listed company, updated general information Staff implemented a policy about two years ago to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste, which it added along with existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age and ancestor.

The inclusion of the new category, which has not been reported before, goes beyond US discriminatory law, which does not explicitly ban caste.

The update comes after the tech sector – which considers India a top source of skilled foreign workers – received a wake-up call in June 2020 when the country’s employment regulator California sues Cisco System on behalf of a low level engineer Who accused two more senior bosses of hindering his career.

Cisco, which denies wrongdoing, said an internal investigation found no evidence of discrimination and some of the allegations were baseless because caste was not a legitimate “protected class”. in California. This month, an appeals panel rejected the network company’s attempt to push the case to private arbitration, meaning a public court case could be brought as early as next year. .

The dispute – the first US employment lawsuit over alleged casteism – forced Big technology to confront a millennial hierarchy where the social position of Indians based on family lineage, from the top class of Brahmin “priests” to the Dalits, was distant. shunned as “the untouchables” and assigned to manual labor.

Since the lawsuit was filed, several activist groups and employees have begun looking for updated U.S. discrimination laws — and also calling on tech companies to change their own policies to help fill the void and prevent casteism.

Their efforts have produced patchy results, according to a Reuters review of policy across the United States industrywhich employs hundreds of thousands of workers from India.

“I’m not surprised that policies won’t be consistent because that’s pretty much what you’d expect when the law is unclear,” said Kevin Brown, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies caste issues. , said among executives uncertain whether the last class would make it into US statute.

“I can imagine that parts of … (one) organization are saying this makes sense, and other parts are saying we don’t think the stand is reasonable.”

According to Reuters, Apple’s main internal policy on conduct in the workplace, added references to caste in the equal employment opportunities and anti-harassment sections after September 2020.

Apple confirmed that it “updated the language a few years ago to reinforce that we prohibit discrimination or harassment based on caste.” It added that the training provided to employees also explicitly mentions caste.

“Ours team continuously evaluate our policies, training, processes and resources to ensure that they are comprehensive,” it said. We have a diverse and global team, and are proud that our policies and actions reflect that. “

Elsewhere in the technology sector, IBM told Reuters it added class, inherent in India-specific policies, to its global discrimination rules after Cisco’s lawsuit was filed, though it declined to include it. specific date or reason.

The company added that IBM’s only training program addressing the caste for managers in India.

Some companies do not specifically mention class in their main global policy, including Amazon, Dell, Facebook Meta owner, Microsoft and Google. Reuters reviewed each policy, some of which were disclosed internally to employees only.

The companies all told Reuters they have zero tolerance for caste bias and, in addition to Meta which did not detail, said such bias would fall under bans against discrimination under categories such as such ancestry and national origin. CASTEISM APPEARS IN INDIA Class discrimination was banned in India over 70 years ago, but prejudice still exists, according to several studies in recent years, including one found Dalit Everyone are not presented in higher paying jobs. Debate over hierarchy is controversial in India and abroad, where religion is concerned, and some say discrimination is rare nowadays.

Government policies to make room for lower-class students at India’s top universities have helped many high-tech jobs in the West in recent years.

Reuters spoke to about two dozen Dalit tech employees in the United States who say discrimination has tracked them abroad. They say signs of caste, including last name, hometown, diet or religious practice, cause co-workers to ignore them in hiring, promotion and social activities.

Reuters could not independently verify the allegations by the workers, who all remained anonymous and said they feared it would damage their careers. Two say they quit their jobs because of what they see as classism.

Several employee groups, including the Alphabet worker Union (AWU) at Google’s parent company, say that explicitly mentioning caste in the company’s rules opens the door for firms to invest into areas like data collection and training at the same level as they do to protect groups.

Mayuri Raja, a software engineer at Google who is a member of the AWU and advocates for lower caste colleagues, said: “Significant class segregation exists in the United States.

More than 1,600 Google workers have requested a class addition to the key workplace code of conduct around the world in a petition, seen by Reuters, which they emailed to CEO Sundar Pichai last month and protested last week after no response.

Google reiterated to Reuters that caste discrimination comes down to national origin, ancestry and ethnicity. It declined to elaborate further on its policies. ‘NOT GOOD FOR BUSINESS’ Adding class to the general code of conduct is not unheard of.

The World Wide Web Consortium, a partial industry standards body based in Massachusetts, introduced it in July 2020. California State University and the state’s Democratic Party have been following for the past two years.

In May of this year, California’s employment regulator, the Department of Civil Rights, added class to its policy of equal employment opportunities for employers.

Still, the move by Apple, a $2.8 trillion behemoth with more than 165,000 full-time employees globally, seems huge.

The Iphone The manufacturer’s fair employment policy now states that Apple “does not discriminate in hiring, training, hiring, or advertising on the basis of” 18 categories, including “race, color, , ancestry, national origin, caste, religion, creed, age” plus disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

By contrast, many employers are hesitant to go beyond the law with their key policies, according to three employment attorneys including Koray Bulut, a partner at Goodwin Procter.

“Most companies only cite from federal and state statutes that list protected categories,” says Bulut.

However, some companies have gone further in secondary policies that govern limited activities or serve only as loose guidelines.

For example, Caste is clearly written in Dell’s Global Social Media Policy and in the Amazon sustainability team’s Global Human Rights Principles and By Google supplier code of conduct.

Amazon and Dell confirmed that they have also started mentioning class in anti-bias presentations to at least some of the new employees outside of India. They declined to specify when, why and to what extent they made the addition, although Dell said it made the change after Cisco’s lawsuit was filed.

The company’s presentation included an explanation of caste as an undesirable social construct that exists in many parts of the world, according to a Reuters review of several online training courses, with material by Dell mentioned a recent lawsuit “from the headlines.”

John-Paul Singh Deol, lead employment attorney at Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco, says that just including castes in training and guidance is enough to “submit” the issue because of the legal force of they have a problem.

This characteristic has been refuted by Janine Yancey, CEO of Emtrain, which sells anti-bias training to about 550 employers and a longtime employment attorney.

“No company wants staff turnover, lack of productivity and conflict – that is not good for the business,” she said.

However, explicitly mentioning caste would likely increase the number of HR complaints claiming it was biased, Yancey added.

“Whenever you are going to call something specific, you increase your caseload exponentially,” she says.

Apple declined to say whether any claims were made under their caste rules.

South Carolina law professor Brown hopes there will be no immediate resolution to the debate over whether companies should refer to caste.

“This is an issue that will ultimately be resolved by the courts,” he said. “The current area is volatile.”

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