U.S. court penalises California State department in caste discrimination lawsuit by StuffsEarth

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A U.S. court has penalised a California State government wing in the caste discrimination case against Cisco that touched on broader issues of free speech and religious freedom.

The case, which had brought widespread scrutiny and criticism to Indian-American managers Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, culminated in a verdict that awarded Cisco Systems a symbolic $2,000 in sanctions against the California Civil Rights Department (CRD).

ALSO READ | California govt. dept says caste not essential part of Hinduism, amends 2020 complaint

Richa Gautam, founder of CasteFiles, emphasised the broader implications of this verdict and highlighted how the flawed Cisco case had been used to tarnish an entire community an unscientific Equality Labs survey serving as a key piece of questionable evidence.

In a statement, Mr. Gautam noted that the survey’s data had been inappropriately cited by academics and media, leading to a widespread but misguided narrative of rampant caste discrimination among Indian-Americans.

The CRD, formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), had been accused of unfairly targeting Iyer and Kompella, labelling them as perpetrators of caste discrimination. However, a whistleblower website exposed evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and fabrications by the CRD, bringing to light the flaws in the case, the statement said.

“This decision is particularly significant given the challenging business environment in Silicon Valley, where companies like Riot Games and Tesla have faced substantial financial penalties over discrimination allegations. The CRD, often criticised for its aggressive pursuit of payouts and refusal to mediate, has been dubbed a “Bounty Hunter” by the Cal Policy Centre,” CasteFiles said.

Abhijit Bagal of CasteFiles pointed out the numerous inconsistencies in the case. He described how the caste narrative used against Iyer and Kompella was misleading and underscored the CRD’s failure to provide a fair hearing.

This misrepresentation had broader social consequences, with Hindu Americans facing increased hostility and discrimination in various settings, from schools to workplaces, he said.

The April 2023 dismissal of the charges against Iyer and Kompella was a moment of celebration for the Indian-American community in Silicon Valley.

“Despite this, the CRD continued to pursue the case against Cisco Systems, a move that many saw as indicative of a weak case. The subsequent sanctions motion against the CRD, resulting in the USD 2,000 penalty in May 2024, highlighted the agency’s missteps and brought significant embarrassment,” Caste Files said.

“The landmark judgment against the CRD in the Cisco caste discrimination case is a significant victory for Silicon Valley companies and Hindu American civil rights. It underscores the importance of fair and accurate representation in legal proceedings and highlights the dangers of prosecutorial overreach.

“This case serves as a reminder of the need for vigilance in protecting the rights of all communities and ensuring justice is based on truth and integrity,” the statement said.

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