Infosys' former US employees allege "Hindi" bias; file lawsuit

Infosys' former US employees allege "Hindi" bias; file lawsuit

Infosys' former US employees allege "Hindi" bias; file lawsuit

Former US employees of India's leading software services firm Infosys have filed a lawsuit against it alleging discrimination because of their inability to communicate in Hindi, a charge denied by the company as "false and baseless".

The case has been filed by Layla Bolten, Gregor Handloser and two more employees. Bolten was hired as a tester, while Handloser was hired by Infosys in 2004 as a Sales Manager.

According to the lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin, the former employees alleged that they were "excluded" from work conversations by their supervisors and co-workers who "regularly spoke in Hindi" in front of them.

Bolten also alleged that a vast majority of 'Test Lead' positions for the project were filled with South Asian workers (mostly Indians), who had less experience with software testing than her.

Besides, Bolten and Handloser, the other two plaintiffs are Brenda Koehler and Kelly Parker. The case has been filed against Infosys Technologies Ltd, Inc and Infosys Public Services Inc. All the plaintiffs are US citizens.

The lawsuit was filed last year in October and Infosys had approached the court to quash the charges back.

When contacted, an Infosys spokesperson said the charges were "false and baseless"."Infosys is an equal opportunity employer. Ms Bolten and Mr Handloser have made various false and baseless allegations and we categorically deny their claims. We have filed a motion in court to dismiss their complaint by refuting all their allegations and we expect to prevail," the spokesperson said.

The lawsuit alleged: "Ms Bolten was also harassed because she was not Indian, and her supervisors excluded her from work conversations by speaking Hindi. The harassment increased after Ms Bolten complained that her co-workers were excluding her by speaking Hindi."

It further said: "While Handloser was employed, his supervisors and co-workers regularly spoke Hindi in front of him, excluding him from work conversations and removed positive statements about his work from e-mails before forwarding them on."

Bolten requested a promotion on multiple occasions including in more advanced testing fields for which she had considerable experience. Infosys instead promoted South Asian workers, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also alleges that Infosys brought additional Indian workers to perform work for the testing project despite the fact that these workers had no experience as software testers.

Over the last few years, the Bangalore-based firm has been in news for alleged visa misuse and was under the scanner of US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) related to errors in I-9 paperwork, pertaining to verification of the identity and employment authorisation.

Jack Palmer, a former Infosys employee, had brought a whistleblower lawsuit in Alabama in February 2011, saying that he had been punished and sidelined by company executives after he reported witnessing widespread visa fraud.

Last year, the company settled its visa row, paying USD 34 million (one of the largest immigration fines ever) but it denied visa fraud.  

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