back to article Tata on trial: Outsourcer 'discriminated' against non-Asian workers, claim American staff

India-based IT outsourcing biz Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) will finally face trial over claims that the company discriminated against workers at US facilities who were not from South Asia. The trial, being held this week in a California courtroom, follows from claims brought in 2015 by three IT workers – Steven Heldt, …

  1. Mainframe Bloke

    Well, this is going to be very interesting.

    It's usually pretty hard to prove this kind of thing, unless someone has been stupid enough to be put on the record, as may have been the case here going by what Mr. Saravanan is reported as having said.

    Bring on the popcorn!

    1. DeeCee

      It's usually pretty hard to prove this kind of thing, unless someone has been stupid enough to be put on the record

      or victim is asian/black/woman/lgbt instead of white

    2. Spazturtle

      It can be quite easy to prove in some cases, like in the recent case in Canada where a Chinese man took over a company and started replacing all the staff with Chinese staff. If the person doing it doesn't believe they are doing anything wrong then they might not take steps to cover it up.

      1. Buzzword

        Do you mean this case? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46065766

        "Over a period of months, Mr Chan repeatedly said that he wanted to replace Caucasian employees with ethnically Chinese employees to reduce labour costs," the judge wrote.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >unless someone has been stupid enough to be put on the record

      You would be surprised how often that happens. I worked as a quality auditors, and like the more well known financial auditors, our job is to obtain (by mostly asking for) documentation that we review. When I started out I thought this sounded a bit strange, after all wouldn't people hide the skeletons too deeply into the cupboards for us to find? Not so, it turned out. Even though I did this for years, I was quite surprised how often I could locate "findings," as we called it.

      It is no exaggeration to say that management was at times quite surprised too...

  2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Tata for now!

    Next up, Cognizant.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An interesting experiment...

    Would be to guage the difference in reaction if a company in Indian was discriminating against Asians in favour of Americans (or any Western country really).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An interesting experiment...

      doubtful you could compete with them on rates alone for work in the sub continent

      work for TCS in UK, and all our managers are Indian, can't add details as it would indicate our position, even as AC - but the odds are that they did indeed discriminate :o(

      1. David Neil

        Re: An interesting experiment...

        Even money it's EY

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An interesting experiment...

        I (phone) interviewed for Tata once. The interview was conducted by people in India who had no direct link with the actual project team in Europe. They just asked a bunch of highly abstract questions with no link to real world business case. The impression that I got was that they were looking for people who knew just enough to do what they were told and would not question the clients or the management about any part of the process. Basically just a giant farm of entry-level by-the-book coders. The pay on offer reflected that.

        I surmise that their employing such a large proportion of Sooth Asians / Indians isn't necessarily deliberate discrimination on their part, more that most Americans and Europeans would not accept to work at their rates or to work in a culture where they have no input into design, business process etc and just do as they are told without question.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: An interesting experiment...

          I surmise that their employing such a large proportion of Sooth Asians / Indians isn't necessarily deliberate discrimination on their part, more that most Americans and Europeans would not accept to work at their rates or to work in a culture where they have no input into design, business process etc and just do as they are told without question.

          I think that specifying such poor pay and working conditions relative to everybody else in the industry that the only way of staffing your company is via immigration on visas that are immediately ended if the person quits or fired is both deliberate discrimination, and a serious abuse of process.

          The people working for that company know that they can be more or less arbitrarily fired by their employer, and then immediately deported. Those staff are basically being forced into agreeing whatever is demanded of them in terms of accepting the behavior of their managers and the wages that are offered, otherwise their lives can be arbitrarily destroyed.

          This grants their manager a level of power that otherwise hasn't existed in our society since banishment by the "divine right" of a king to command anything without reference to due process.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: An interesting experiment...

            @Peter2

            "the only way of staffing your company is via immigration on visas that are immediately ended if the person quits or fired"

            Spot on. H1B visa is being terribly abused in this way. And linking a residence permit to an employment contract is no different to the system in Qatar (and most of the middle East I guess?) with the construction workers for the World Cup etc, which is so criticised by 'the west'

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: An interesting experiment...

          I work for another one of the outsourcers, but am a local white person.

          I have been told straight to my face that people like me (ie the local population) are stupid and lazy, and different, so easiest to deal with other Indians. Effectively, it's just individuals doing what they feel most comfortable with - in exactly the same way as middle age white men pick other middle age white men for management roles.

          It used to p*ss me off (especially when I saw the inexperience of my new managers), but it's a big company so I know I can't change it. And it's actually been an immensely powerful way of forcing me to confront my own prejudices, and how I can help others around me.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An interesting experiment...

        Have a upvote, I was once in your unfortunate position for a few years and confirm your suspicions.

        I was initially hired because they couldn't source my skill set internally for a really juicy contract but once they had the contract they spent the entire time I was contracted to them trying to undermine/replace me with indians brought in, and each time the end client stopped them doing this as they were really happy with my delivery and performance. There were times I wasn't paid for months on end, and the systems to pay me were continually changing with no notice, new pointless metrics introduced to try and reduce wages etc, but I had a firm contract and just stuck to it. Training? well, long term contractor here, used to not getting that, although they sold me to the client with "training provided" apparently. Perhaps they meant that really stupid entry level stuff with videos and questionaires that they made mandatory for me to waste hours a month doing.

        The sad thing is, I had my own ltd etc that could have been recruited direct which would have been much more beneficial all round*, but the enterprise in question only dealt with people on a preferred supplier list.

        I wouldn't bother getting involved in a lawsuit, just move on to a different role wiser and more informed, and to be fair, I did actually get paid in the end.

        * excluding TCS...

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An interesting experiment...

        "work for TCS in UK, and all our managers are Indian, can't add details as it would indicate our position, even as AC - but the odds are that they did indeed discriminate :o("

        You may work at the same place as me, but then knowing others working for TCS at other companies, maybe not. Only thing worse than the discrimination is the nepotism.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake news or not...

    If you want to know why people vote for The Trump (or any of the nutjobs springing up around the world) this kind of story is it in a nutshell.

    1. cream wobbly

      Re: Fake news or not...

      ...which since these are relatively low-skilled, relatively low-paid contractor positions, explains that kind of voter [Steven, Brian, and Christopher] in a nutshell.

      If you're a low-paid contractor, you're either desperate or you're in the way.

  5. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

    When I used to work for a large US company (not an outsourcer) I was surprised to find one of their office in the State almost fully stuffed with Indians and another with Chinese.

    It would not happen in London - here the offices tend to be more diverse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >I was surprised to find one of their office in the State almost fully stuffed with Indians and another with Chinese.

      I can understand your astonishment; I hope the chef was fired and the stuffing outsourced.

    2. devTrail

      > It would not happen in London

      I worked in the IT department of a big company in London for a while and 50% of the staff came from either India or Pakistan. Another big share came from other European countries like Spain, Poland, Italy, Hungary and so on, then there were some people from South Africa, Argentina and few other nations. Britons made up a tiny share of the workforce.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        don't worry

        The EU staff will be sent home next year

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: don't worry

          WORKE|RS (and their families) from other EU countries will always be welcome, regardless of what you read in the raving imaginings of Remoaners - especially those whose rantings get published in the national newspapers.

          The large number of health "tourists" who come here to get 'free' treatment on the NHS (it is NOT free, FFS, - it's paid for by us!) then go home won't be welcome, nor will the ones who come to the UK to live on benefits with no intention of ever contributing anything other than more mouths to feed and houses to provide. We have more than enough freeloaders of our own, we don't need to import more.

          Most people realise that EU workers - and those from outside the EU - provide a much-needed and valuable service but it suits those who want us to remain under Brussels' control to paint us all as foreigner-hating lunatics who want to kick everybody else out of the country, so that is how we get portrayed in the media.

          I've lost count of the number of times I've been told that I'm lying and that I can't really believe that simply because I voted Leave. Well guess what, we are not all the rabid racists the remoaners want to paint us as.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Similar experience, used to deal with one of our offices where everyone had an Indian name and a strong Indian accent. The New Jersey office, obviously. Weirdly the Bangalore office spoke more clearly and the quality of their work was better too.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ROFL!

    Our customers expect TCS to provide world-class talent for their technology needs.

    Given my experience with other Indian body shops, the 'Talent' is very much lacking.

    Once these companies get a foot in the door they promise the PHB's the earth. Then the permies get TUPE'd over to the outsourcer and once the TUPE period is over they try to re-employ them on Indian rates (around 50% of what they were getting before) so they leave in droves and that allows the outsourcer to employ more people from India after complaining to the PHB's that they can't get the local staff with the right experience. Yeah right.

    Slowly they expand their influence inside the company so that by the time the senior management wakes up to the fact that their systems are crap and they can't deliver the service they had before, it is too late.

    Rinse and repeat. Happened to me twice in the last 10 years.

    Still, I did get a good bit of consultancy work from one of my former employers who hired me back to fix some of the problems. The original outsourcer was shown the door and replaced with another Indian company who once again promised the earth. I took my cue and left and got employment in another field entirely. That former employer has since gone to the wall. One of the reasons was that their IT was unable to perform when needed.

    I've since retired so it no longer matters but I hope that this is a word of warning to non Asians in UK IT departments. India is coming for your job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ROFL!

      I had a similar experience. Management understaffed the projects so we ran over time, as expected. So management held a meeting where we were calmly informed how much cheaper Indian programmers were. As expected I lost my job. Also this company is now gone to the wall. The only thing that surprises me is how well management survives these self inflicted disasters.

  7. Dr Scrum Master

    South Asia

    I find it highly unlikely that Tata discriminates in favour of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans...

    Anecdotes of Indians discriminating in favour of fellow Indians are rife in Singapore, usually along the lines of: a new Indian manager is recruited then several months later his staff are now mostly Indian (usually from the same region in India).

  8. John70

    My job was out sourced to TCS last year "to save money".

    It's costing them now...

  9. David Roberts
    Facepalm

    Who would have thought

    That racial and religious discrimination was not solely the province of the WASPS?

    For India specifically, I understand thst there is/was a caste system which institutionalised discrimination.

    I think that we are lucky in the UK at the moment that discrimination is not the issue that it was 50 or more years ago.

    1. Tigra 07
      Facepalm

      Re: Who would have thought

      "I think that we are lucky in the UK at the moment that discrimination is not the issue that it was 50 or more years ago"

      You're joking right? Even as a minority you can see the Western world is being geared up more and more to discriminate against straight white men as much as possible. The goalposts have only been shifted buddy, not removed.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Who would have thought

        "the Western world is being geared up more and more to discriminate against straight white men as much as possible."

        Rather I would say that the Western world is geared up to discriminate less in favour of white men. If you're a white man in Western Europe / the US, it is almost certain that you are one of the richest 10% on the planet

        1. Tigra 07
          Stop

          Re: Who would have thought

          "Rather I would say that the Western world is geared up to discriminate less in favour of white men"

          I call bullshit on that. Take a look in the news on any random day and you can see open hostility to people based solely on them being male, white, straight, or all of the above. It's becoming acceptable in many areas, especially on the far left. The BBC refuses to even hire white males in many positions now, and that's a publicly funded organisation, funded by the same people it discriminates against.

          Sack a person for their skin colour and you'll be prosecuted for racism - unless they're white and you claim you're trying to make yourself more diverse - that's alright and you'll be applauded for it by Guardian readers and their ilk.

          Sweden held a concert for everyone but straight, white, men. They were fenced off in their own pen to protect everyone else.

          1. jmch Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Who would have thought

            "Take a look in the news on any random day and you can see open hostility to people based solely on them being male, white, straight, or all of the above"

            News is newsworthy because it's unusual. Straight white males are still in a considerable majority in government cabinets and corporate boardrooms. Straight white males doing A-OK isn't news, it's the status quo.

            "The BBC refuses to even hire white males in many positions now,"

            "Sack a person for their skin colour and you'll be prosecuted for racism - unless they're white and you claim you're trying to make yourself more diverse "

            Citation needed

            "Sweden held a concert for everyone but straight, white, men"

            First I heard of that, which is why I looked it up and it took me all of 2 seconds to find that actually, it was a 'women-only' concert , not "everyone but straight, white, men". Nothing to see here, move along

            1. Spazturtle

              Re: Who would have thought

              "Citation needed"

              https://metro.co.uk/2018/01/19/bbc-criticised-for-banning-white-job-applicants-for-trainee-role-7243601/

              https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36443113

              https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/01/bbc-axe-award-winning-comedian-of-18-years-for-being-white-and-m/

              https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/jon-holmes-bbc-presenter-sacked-white-man-mail-on-sunday-a7341831.html

              1. jmch Silver badge

                Re: Who would have thought

                "https://metro.co.uk/2018/01/19/bbc-criticised-for-banning-white-job-applicants-for-trainee-role-7243601/

                https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36443113"

                Offering a trainee program only to non-whites isn't the same as only hiring non-whites. I do agree that it is still not correct to do so, however it is quite different to teh original claim of "BBS only hires non-whites for some roles"

                "https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/01/bbc-axe-award-winning-comedian-of-18-years-for-being-white-and-m/

                https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/jon-holmes-bbc-presenter-sacked-white-man-mail-on-sunday-a7341831.html"

                Not having a contract renewed isn't the same as being fired.

          2. d3vy

            Re: Who would have thought

            Any sources for this?

            I know a few straight white males working at the BBC right now.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Who would have thought

              maybe they're bi or closeted?

      2. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: Who would have thought

        White straight male is still the demographic to be. Least negative discrimination and most positive discrimination. It's akin to be playing a computer game at the 'Don't Hurt Me' level of difficulty. Add massive wads of money to that and you get cheat mode.

      3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Who would have thought

        One of the problems here is that "straight white men" comprises (in the US) everyone from the President, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and four fifths of the Supreme Court, to the guy in the middle of the country working two jobs to keep solvent. And guess what, when that last guy hears talking heads complain of the privilege of straight white men, he doesn't hear "Ryan, Roberts, McConnell, Trump", he takes it personally. I don't blame him, particularly: if I could manage to take the complainers seriously, I might take it personally too.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Who would have thought

          "everyone from the President, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and four fifths of the Supreme Court, to the guy in the middle of the country working two jobs to keep solvent"

          ...and that is exactly the problem of identity politics. Using individuals to target a group, or using supposed group characteristics to target individuals are both wrong, morally AND practically. (unfortunately, though, part of the human brain is hardwired that way)

  10. ratfox

    Hmmm... It's not like Indian IT workers are rare; on the top of my head the CEO of Google and Microsoft both come from India, and they have a significant number of Indian employees as well...

    But to get numbers like those of Tata? It's hard to say that's random. I'm sure that Indians are way more likely than Americans to seek employment with Tata, There's only so much that you can explain by Americans refusing to apply. Is it allowed to only advertise for jobs in India?

  11. Tigra 07
    Trollface

    FTFY

    "Our customers expect TCS to provide world-classIndian talent for their technology needs. Our success is based on our ability to provide the bestmost Indian talent available, both in the US and globally, based purely on the individual’s specialized experienceIndian-ness, skillsIndian-osity and fit for each client’s specific needsdid we mention we have lots of Indians?. TCS also strictly adheres to all federal and state equal employment opportunity laws and regulations for our Indian workers."

    There! Fixed it for you Tata!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FTFY

      Come on, Goodness Gracious me is not something which has been shown USA TV.

      Unfortunately it is not being re-run here either.

      And it is a pity. Real pity.

  12. devTrail

    I noticed similar patterns in other Indian outsourcing companies in Europe (I had to do with three of them). But the reason is not racism the reason is that they come from a countries with weaker worker rights and weaker integrity standards and they didn't learn to defend themselves properly, therefore they can be easily exploited and they can be forced by crooked managers to cheat the customers.

    When they have full outsourcing of the IT projects they often have a European analyst that handles the relations with the customers, but actually doesn't know what is happening behind his back, while the developers are forced to work at the same time on multiple projects for multiple clients 12 hours a day and submitting fake timesheets. Nobody except the Indian managers know what they are actually working on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >I noticed similar patterns in other Indian outsourcing companies in Europe (I had to do with three of them). But the reason is not racism the reason is that they come from a countries with weaker worker rights and weaker integrity standards and they didn't learn to defend themselves properly, therefore they can be easily exploited and they can be forced by crooked managers to cheat the customers.

      It isn't just the Indian outsourcers - that many roles have been moved over to India that most outsourcers are heavily Indian-centric now, and *they* seem a lot more reluctant to move the roles onto cheaper countries (Bangladesh, Philippines, etc) then the British/European managers were...

      1. devTrail

        > It isn't just the Indian outsourcers ...

        I do not deny that. But in the case of Indian outsourcing companies there's a little bit more. They're not only looking for people they can pay peanuts, they are also looking for people they can trust, people who will keep their mouth shut whatever happens.

  13. James Fox

    "workers who are not South Asian or ndian"

    Is that Big-ndian or Little-ndian?

  14. Chappers N

    My heart bleeds for the outsourcers...

    Well come April 2020 the likes of TCS and all of the outsourcers will have free reign and a fairly open market in the UK, thanks to our blinkered and short sighted politicians. So a policy that didn't work, I know we will push it into the private sector and see if it does any better there. A bit like shooting your leg off, then shooting the other one off as you couldn't believe your leg was not there after the first stupid act.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My heart bleeds for the outsourcers...

      It's in the interest of balance.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why is "discriminated" in quotes in the title

    Why exactly is this.

    We will see what the case shows but it certainly has much stronger circumstantial evidence than many discrimination (no quotes) cases.

    the employers will need to proved they did not discriminate. all the have to do is show that all races were promoted equally, fired equally, and hired equally.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    an Invalid premise

    There are more men than women in 'top' jobs at the moment because you cannot sack a manager just for being a man (yet) and it takes time to move up the organizational ladder - as roles become free due to promotion, retirement etc then recruitment or promotion should be done on merit and performance, not simply because the organisation has only got one third of their roles filled by women or whatever "minority" it might be.

    And it doesn't matter how you try to justify it, positive discrimination is still discrimination - saying you are going to recruit only members of "minority" groups makes you as much a racist or a sexist as those you are complaining about. Musicians starting scholarships only for non-whites IS racist, however you try to justify it.

  17. madcow

    Not only at Tata

    I used to work for a similar company also from India. Rather than hire local workers the decided to "import" workers from India at higher wages. Some had no idea at all what they were doing. After the project ended and we were let go all the Indian workers were assigned to other projects but the was no more room for us. We were "to do as we were told".

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tin can cultural embassy

    Oh the memories!

    Because circumstances, I was a peon at a small international "cultural" outfit in a tin-can republic, where the boss had ambassador rank from another failed tin-can state. Somewhat hush-hush operation, getting their paws in local politics. Kind of cute, in an Ubu kind of way. They liked it that I played the foreigner, the pay was way better than elsewhere, better than they paid nationals. Took them a long time to cut me my last check...

    The place was a wreck of ineptitude, which I guess is a Good Thing for the universe. The "official" IT guy was an alcoholic son of a former classmate of the boss. Didn't take long for people to ask me to keep their stuff running. Of course except for my station, everything else Microsoft and similar, pirated (the place was likened to an embassy, and thus enjoyed or invented themselves out of rules and regulations). Did I say I was there just for the money? needed it as my mother needed very expensive medical. The rest of the personnel were mostly some sort of cronies, the kind that would starve if they needed to get a real job, only two people were doing something useful, and the accountant seemed busy with some stuff I really don't want to mention, even writing as A.C.

    Eventually the day came that I was called to the boss office, and there was the mini me, and the lawyer, all with dog faces, and I don't quite recall if I burst out laughing, the scene was so theatrical. I had a rather clear contract, so even with their nonsense the best they could get was that we don't make a mess on each other, as obviously I was not awed by their antics. Two months to get my last pay, actually a few days after mom passed away and I left the country for good, haven't gone back in years.

    Life. Must love it, right?

    Much happier now.

    Voted yesterday, who would think such a concept? even if it's a ridiculous, manipulated thing, it beats the alternative.

  19. john80224

    Nothing to See Here, Sadly.

    This and age discrimination have been the practice conservatively for the past 15 years. Despite this being as clear cut as it can be barring Tata outright admitting to it, this probably won't be "proven". In the event it is, some nominal fine/damages/settlement will be assessed and the cycle will continue. "Nominal" may be a number that sounds big, e.g. InfoSys' $34 million, but really ineffective on the scale in which these companies operate and the infrequency of any challenges being anything substantial.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TCS owns the financial industry in the states

    I work for a large bank in the US. TCS has suckered them in and is destroying everything that was built up for years with shitty code, awful testing, and replacement of Americans with idiot H-1Bs. Senior Leadership is full of cloud people who won't see the brown wave coming until it starts destroying them. It's already starting, they brought in several high level Indian IT execs and its only getting worse. The H-1Bs sit bullpens with no windows and desks mashed up next to each other. Walking into the workspace late at night after they've left is like walking into a trash dump - there is garbage over every desk. The code is shit and software security is a complete joke. I give it 3 years before there's a major hack that leads to a bunch of people losing *real money* at these places because of shitty TCS code. I'm sure all the personal info is already been leaked and hackers have got a hold of it.

  21. Melanie Winiger

    Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose - it's still happening and not even a pandemic with the difficulty of international travel is going to stop it.

    "When you deal with India, it always ends in tears" Middle East Airline Captain to me.

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