American Employee Sues IT Company Cognizant Alleging DiscriminationTop Stories

March 07, 2019 11:39
American Employee Sues IT Company Cognizant Alleging Discrimination

(Image source from: The Hindu)

An Information Technology company Cognizant is being sued by an employee in the United States on discrimination allegations in the way assignments are handed out in the company and moreover, he said he was denied promotions in spite of helping the firm win large deals with clients such as Pepsi and Discover Financial.

The lawsuit includes an email in which a Cognizant internal recruiter is seen calling for an American as a 'diversity candidate' for a project in that country.

The legal battle against the Indian companies abroad, especially in the United States, has been increasing since long. Lawsuits alleging internal discrimination could harm the ability of these companies to hire and retain talent in their biggest market.

In 2018, Cognizant's U.S. headcount dropped despite strong hiring, as attrition rose, it’s annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed.

"Plaintiff Jeremy Weaver was unable to secure or even be seriously considered for higher-level leadership roles within defendant Cognizant due to preferential treatment and unequal opportunities for advancement that are commonly given to Indian employees," according to the lawsuit. It said American employees were not considered even if they were equally or better qualified than Indian employees.

It lists Papa John's, Pepsi, Discover Financial, SunTrust and Pizza Hut as clients with whom Weaver won contracts. The lawsuit was filed in February in the Southern District of New York.

"On or about April 13, 2017, plaintiff Jeremy Weaver was approached via email about a potential opportunity only because he was an American... an internal recruiter, with defendant Cognizant, sent this job posting to...Weaver with a discriminatory job description which indicated that a "diversity candidate... an American" was preferred for the role due to "cultural fitment reasons," the suit states.

It adds that the email shows a bias in favor of Indian men and 'diversity' candidates were only given roles when it was advantageous or a 'dire need' for the company.

Weaver's suit states that he has since moved to smaller rival Mindtree as a programme director, which is similar to a role he attempted to apply for at Cognizant.

"Plaintiff would never have resigned from defendant Cognizant, had it not been for the discrimination that plaintiff suffered for his American national origin," the suit states. The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial.

As IT companies expand headcount in the U.S., they are facing increasing trouble of lawsuits.

Indian IT firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) faced a similar lawsuit on the allegations that they discriminate against Americans in their hiring process. However, a jury came to the conclusion that the company does not discriminate.

"It is not a question of suits," the legal head of a large Indian IT services company told Economic Times. "We know that the U.S. is litigious and we take steps to ensure that we follow the rules and do not open ourselves up to lawsuits. But suing is common there. Sometimes it is easier to settle than to go to court because the trial will cost more than the settlement in some cases."

He added that a large number of suits could also create a perception of the industry as a good home for talent.

"Tech talent is scarce in the U.S… We compete with the really large tech giants and we do not have the brand there than we have in India. If there is a perception that you can't progress in an Indian company, then it affects everyone," he was quoted as saying by Economic Times.

By Sowmya Sangam

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cognizant  IT companies