Apple lost an early round in a discrimination lawsuit brought in the US by a female engineer from India who says her two managers – one from India, the other from Pakistan – treated her as they would in their own countries, which is to say as if she were subservient.
The woman’s case in California state court is the latest to allege workplace bias in Silicon Valley that focuses on cultural prejudices of some tech workers from South Asia, Bloomberg is reporting.
Many IT engineers come from South Asia to the US to work for high tech companies. Sometimes they bring their ancestral issues with them.
Anita Nariani Schulze is part of the Sindhi minority – she is Hindu, with ancestry in the Sindh region of what is now Pakistan.
Her complaint alleges that she was forced to resign from her job as a technical engineer at Apple in 2019 after tolerating years of discriminatory treatment at the hands of her managers.
She claimed that her senior and direct managers, both male, consistently excluded her from meetings while inviting her male counterparts, criticised her, micromanaged her work, and deprived her of bonuses despite positive performance evaluations.
Schulze claims the managers’ attitude reflects sexism, racism, religious bias and discrimination on the basis of national origin.
She claimed that part of the managers’ negative attitude towards her was due to her Hindu ancestry in Pakistan’s Sindh region, which she said is “known for its technical acumen” and encouragement of “women to rise above their historically subservient gender roles”.
In a tentative ruling on Wednesday, Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Sunil R Kulkarni rejected Apple’s request to toss out the suit.
While not ruling on the merits of the case, Kulkarni said Schulze had adequately supported her legal claims. Apple had argued her claims weren’t specific enough and were based on stereotypes.
However, the judge rejected Schulze’s request to represent a class of female Apple employees who suffered job discrimination over the last four years. He agreed with Apple that she didn’t show a pattern of discrimination that could be applied to a broader group.
In another case with a similar background, Cisco Systems is fighting a suit brought by California’s civil rights agency alleging bias against a member of India’s Dalit caste, formerly referred to as “untouchables”.
Cisco has denied the claims, insisting it has “zero tolerance for discrimination”.
However, it also said the lawsuit should be tossed out because caste isn’t a protected category under US civil rights law.