Former U.S. Infosys Employees Allege Discrimination on Basis of National Origin

    A class-action lawsuit filed in August against Infosys, alleging that the company has engaged in systematic, company-wide discrimination against Americans and others who are not of South Asian descent, has been amended to include two former Infosys employees, and a contractor working under Infosys’s management, who have come forward to allege that they, too, suffered discrimination.

    As I wrote at the time, the original lawsuit, filed on Aug. 1 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, was brought on behalf of Brenda Koehler, an American IT project manager in Milwaukee who was allegedly denied employment at Infosys because she is not of South Asian descent. The lawyers who filed it were subsequently contacted by two former Infosys employees who gave similar accounts of discrimination: Layla Bolten, a software analysis and testing specialist in Dickerson, Md.; and Gregory Handloser, a sales manager in Sarasota, Fla. Also contacting the lawyers was contractor Kelly Parker, an IT help desk support specialist in Minocqua, Wis. The lawyers amended the lawsuit to include the allegations from these individuals, and filed it on Sept. 27.

    Here’s a summary of Bolten’s allegations as they appear in the amended lawsuit:

    In or around December 2012, Infosys Public Service won a $49.5 million contract with the Washington, D.C. government to design and build the IT infrastructure supporting the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange, an online shopping center for health insurance created under the Affordable Care Act. A large portion of Infosys’s work involved “testing” the system to find bugs. Ms. Bolten has considerable experience as a software tester, and interviewed for a job with Infosys Public Services. Although Ms. Bolten was told that she would serve as a “Test Lead,” she was ultimately hired simply as a tester, a position that had less responsibility and lower pay than the Test Lead position. Ms. Bolten performed her job well and helped her co-workers to understand information that was critical to the job (e.g., the relevance of social security numbers). Ms. Bolten also noticed that the vast majority of the “Test Lead” positions were filled with South Asian workers (predominantly Indians). These individuals had considerably less experience with software testing than Ms. Bolten. Ms. 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 and brought additional Indian workers (who were in the country on visas) to perform work for the testing project in spite of the fact that these workers had no experience as software testers. 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.

    The amended lawsuit summarized Handloser’s allegations as follows:

    Mr. Handloser was hired by Infosys in 2004 as a Sales Manager. Mr. Handloser performed his job well. In or around 2011, Infosys began a concerted effort in the U.S. to purge non-South Asian employees in favor of South Asians, including in the sales force and other areas that had comparatively large numbers of non-South Asian employees. In 2011 and 2012, Infosys began to set unrealistic sales goals for Mr. Handloser, denied him his bonuses, and fired Mr. Handloser soon after he finalized a contract with a major client. While Mr. 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.

    And this is the amended lawsuit’s summary of Parker’s allegations:

    In 2012, Infosys and Harley Davidson finalized a five-year engagement for IT services. As part of the arrangement, Infosys was to provide Harley IT services, including applications management, infrastructure support, and hosting services. As a result of its contract with Infosys, Harley Davidson announced that it was cutting 125 workers from its IT staff. Infosys publicly announced that it was hiring 125 workers in Milwaukee, primarily to provide IT services to Harley Davidson.  … [I]n 2012, Ms. Parker was contracted to work under the management of Infosys and was providing IT services to Harley Davidson from Tomahawk, WI, a small town in central Wisconsin. Ms. Parker was popular within Harley Davidson (Infosys’s client), and had serviced the client well. Nonetheless, in September 2013, Infosys decided not to hire Ms. Parker permanently and terminated the contract under which Ms. Parker worked in favor of Kapil Kulkarni, a South Asian who Ms. Parker herself had trained and who moved to Tomahawk to replace her.

    In addition, the amended lawsuit cited an Infosys hiring manager who told an Indian media outlet after the original lawsuit was filed that “an element of discrimination” does indeed exist within Infosys, and that he was unsurprised by the lawsuit.

    Infosys did not respond to a request for comment.

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