Monday, 20 August 2018 11:08

Ex-employee sues IT ousourcer HCL over alleged pro-Indian bias

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Ex-employee sues IT ousourcer HCL over alleged pro-Indian bias Pixabay

A former employee of Indian IT outsourcing company HCL has filed a suit, claiming that the firm discriminates against non-Indian workers and games the American H-1B visa system.

A report in the California website Mercury News said that Reese Voll, a white male computer systems architect, had worked at HCL for about two years and was sacked in August 2016.

His suit, which he wants to expand to class-action status, alleges that HCL “prefers South Asians in employment decisions” and its policies serve to enforce this bias. It said the South Asian workforce was "primarily Indian".

HCL, which has its headquarters in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, was set up in 1976 and has three divisions – HCL Infosystems, HCL Technologies and HCL Healthcare. It has annual revenues of more than US$8.5 billion and employs over 125,000 workers from 140 nationalities with operations in 41 countries and 500 points of presence in India.

Voll said that among HCL's practices was hiring Indians on H-1B visas for its American job openings.

Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the US has been clamping down on H-1B visas which are used to bring in about 85,000 people a year to work in the US. Many of them are Indians who work in the technology industry.

“HCL submits visa petitions for more positions than actually exist in the US in order to maximise its chances of securing the highest number of available H-1B visas from the lottery process,” the suit alleges.

“In this way, HCL has been able to secure visas for far more individuals than it actually has a present need for.

“Non-South Asian individuals are often displaced from their current positions in favour of South Asian and visa-ready individuals. Jobs are given to visa-holding South Asians from India.”

The suit was filed in the US District Court in San Jose, California, which is a federal court, as it alleges that the employment practices at HCL violate US civil rights law.

Voll alleges that he witnessed the company's preference for Indians first-hand during the two years he worked for HCL in Texas.

He claimed he was not able to work well with his colleagues. “South Asian colleagues routinely spoke in Hindi and other non-English languages both socially and while discussing client-related work, precluding (Voll) from fully participating in these conversations,” his suit claimed.

Voll wants his suit expanded to cover "all individuals who are not of South Asian race who applied for positions with (or within) HCL in the US and were not hired, who were employed by HCL in the US and sought a promotion but were not promoted, and/or who were employed by HCL in the US and were involuntarily terminated".

He wants unspecified damages and compensation, plus a court order that makes it mandatory for HCL to have a “non-discriminatory method for hiring, promotion, termination, and other employment decisions".

iTWire contacted HCL's Melbourne office for comment on the case, but the phone appears to be unattended and there is no other way of contact provided. Mercury News said HCL had not responded to its request for comment.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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