OAKLAND, Calif., (Reuters) – Cisco Systems Inc ( CSCO.O ) on Friday lost a court appeal to private arbitration over alleged caste discrimination at its Silicon Valley office, where Indian-origin managers are accused of bias. Co-workers in India.
The networking gear and business software company has denied the allegations. A California appeals court had argued that the state’s Department of Civil Rights, which brought the suit on behalf of a worker identified by the pseudonym John Doe, should be bound by an employment arbitration agreement signed by Doe.
“As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered into,” the appellate panel wrote.
In a separate order Friday, he asked a lower court judge to reconsider a ruling that required the state to identify Doe. A lower court said the law prevented Doe’s family members from considering whether naming him could harm them.
The high court wrote that “anywhere harm to family members is a legitimate consideration in deciding whether to grant anonymity to a party.”
Cisco and the state agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The ancient socio-religious concept of caste has oppressed some families born in the lowest castes in India for centuries. California has alleged that those biases have traveled to the US tech industry, which has the largest pool of Indian immigrant workers.
The state sued Cisco in 2020 after Doe complained to the company’s human resources staff that two high-ranking managers denied him work and defamed him.
The lawsuit has led to calls for more guidelines and training related to the potential for racial bias among US companies, universities and other institutions.