March 25, 2021
Apple Inc. lost an early round in a discrimination lawsuit brought in the U.S. by a female engineer from India who says her two managers — one from her country, the other from Pakistan — treated her as they would in their own countries: as a 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. Cisco Systems Inc. is fighting a suit brought by California’s civil rights agency alleging bias against a member of India’s so-called lower castes, known as Dalits.
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 her senior and direct managers, both male, consistently excluded her from meetings while inviting her male counterparts, criticized her, micromanaged her work, and deprived her of bonuses, despite positive performance evaluations and significant team contributions.
Schulze claims the managers’ animus reflects sexism, racism, religious bias and discrimination on the basis of national origin. The Sindhi Hindu nationality is “known for its technical acumen” and its gender equality, she says, which “exacerbated the managers’ discriminatory treatment.”
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.
But 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.
It wasn’t clear from the court’s docket whether the judge will hold a hearing Thursday before issuing a final ruling.
Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
In the Cisco case, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleged that two Indian employees at the San Jose-based company discriminated against a Dalit co-worker on the basis of caste.
Cisco has denied the claims, insisting it has “zero tolerance for discrimination.” It also said the lawsuit should be tossed out because caste isn’t a protected category under U.S. civil rights law.