Apple is facing a bias lawsuit from an Indian engineer

Apple Inc. lost an early round in a discrimination lawsuit brought in the US by an Indian engineer who says her two managers – one from her country, the other from Pakistan – treated her as they would in theirs own countries would do: as a subordinate.

The woman’s case in California state court is the latest alleging workplace prejudice in Silicon Valley, which focuses on cultural biases of some South Asian tech workers. Cisco Systems Inc. is fighting a lawsuit by the California Civil Rights Administration alleging bias against a member of India’s so-called lower castes, known as Dalits.

Anita Nariani Schulze belongs to the Sindhi minority – she is Hindu, with ancestors from the Sindh region in present-day Pakistan. Her complaint alleges that her senior and line managers, both male, consistently excluded her from meetings, despite positive performance reviews and significant team contributions, while inviting her male colleagues, criticizing her, micromanaging her work and withholding bonuses.

Schulze claims the managers’ animus reflects sexism, racism, religious bias and discrimination based on national origin. The Sindhi-Hindu nationality is “known for its technical acumen” and gender equality, she says, which “exacerbated the discriminatory treatment of managers.”

In a preliminary ruling Wednesday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil R. Kulkarni denied Apple’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. While not ruling on the merits of the case, Kulkarni said Schulze adequately supported her legal claims. Apple had argued that their claims were not specific enough and were based on stereotypes.

But the judge denied Schulze’s request to represent a group of female Apple employees who have faced discrimination in the workplace over the past four years. He agreed with Apple that they did not present a pattern of discrimination that could be applied to a broader group.

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The court filing did not indicate whether the judge will hold a hearing Thursday before issuing a final verdict. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the Cisco case, the California Department of Equal Employment and Housing alleged that two Indian employees at the San Jose-based company discriminated against a Dalit colleague because of his caste.

Cisco has denied the claims, insisting it has “zero tolerance for discrimination.” It also said that the lawsuit should be dismissed because caste is not a protected category under US civil rights law.

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