The company has been accused of bias against workers who aren’t from India.
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., the biggest U.S. sponsor of H-1B visas for foreign information technology specialists, says a civil rights lawsuit accusing the firm of bias against workers who aren’t from India is all wrong.
Three former employees claim they were forced out of their jobs and replaced with “less qualified” South Asians after being poorly treated by their Indian supervisors and colleagues, given unjustifiably low performance ratings and denied promotions.
The company contends that what it’s accused of isn’t covered by federal civil rights law.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, but plaintiffs’ factual allegations, on their face, plainly pertain to a claim of discrimination based on national origin -- not race,” Cognizant said in a court filing. It also said the complaint is clearly targeted at “visa holders, but visa-status allegations have nothing to do with race.”
The lawsuit is part of a broader backlash by white IT workers against the visa program that allows U.S. companies to bring in foreign workers for job openings they say can’t be filled otherwise. President Donald Trump tapped into this discontentment to capture the White House in 2016.
Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, signed last April, seeks to ensure that American workers aren’t unfairly disadvantaged by employers who allegedly abuse the H-1B visa program.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles said Thursday she would rule on Cognizant’s request to dismiss the claims without a hearing.
Cognizant received 29,000 H1-B visas last year, according to Homeland Security Department data, about twice as much as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., second on the list. The biggest U.S. technology companies, such as Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Google Inc., are much further down the list with fewer than 5,000 sponsored visas each.
TCS may have to face a class-action trial later this year in Oakland, California, by American workers who claim they lost their jobs because the company is biased in favor of South Asian IT employees. The same Washington law firm representing the workers from TCS and Cognizant is pressing similar claims against Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd., two other IT outsourcing firms.
TCS, Infosys and Wipro are all based in India. Cognizant’s headquarters is in Teaneck, New Jersey.
The case is Palmer v. Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., 17-cv-06848, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
Inability to secure visas may adversely affect company’s business, says IT firm
Cognizant Technology Solutions shifted almost 8,000 jobs out of India in 2017, while adding positions in North America, according to the company.
“We had approximately 2,60,000 employees at the end of 2017, with approximately 50,400 in North America, 13,800 in Europe and 1,95,800 in various other locations throughout the rest of [the] world, including 1,80,000 in India,’’ the IT services company said in its annual report
In 2016, the U.S.-based company had a headcount of 1.88 lakh in India, out of a total of 2,60,200, with almost 47,500 jobs located in North America.
The shifting of 8,000 jobs out of India must be read in the context of the Trump administration’s increasingly tough stance on immigration and tightening of visa norms.
Cognizant said that “risks relating to legislation and government regulation on immigration may affect our ability to compete for and provide services to customers, which could hamper our growth and cause our revenues to decline.’’
“The ability of foreign nationals to work in the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific and other regions in which we have customers depends on their and our ability to obtain the necessary visas and work permits for our personnel who need to travel internationally,’’ it added.
“If we are unable to obtain such visas or work permits, or if their issuance is delayed or if their length is shortened, we may not be able to provide services to our customers or to continue to provide services on a timely and cost-effective basis, receive revenues as early as expected or manage our delivery centres as efficiently as we otherwise could, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition,’’ the NASDAQ-listed firm said.
The IT major said that the anti-outsourcing legislation, if adopted, and negative perceptions associated with offshore outsourcing could impair its ability to service customers. These could adversely affect its business, results of operations and financial condition, it added.
"The Cognizant U.S. Foundation will directly address the existing technology skills gap through innovative programs focused on educating a wide range of Americans and preparing them to thrive in the digital era," Francisco D'Souza, CEO of Cognizant, said.
Cognizant said it would establish a new non-profit foundation, with an initial grant of $100 million, to support science, technology, engineering , math and digital education and skills initiatives for U.S. workers and students.
The Teaneck, New Jersey headquartered firm also said it had hired 6000 US workers in 2017 and planned to grow its US headcount by at least an additional 25,000 in the next five years.
"The Cognizant U.S. Foundation will directly address the existing technology skills gap through innovative programs focused on educating a wide range of Americans and preparing them to thrive in the digital era," Francisco D'Souza, CEO of Cognizant, said
The foundation will fund 'STEM education and skills programs, public-private partnerships and other initiatives designed for high school graduates, community college and college students, military veterans and others in the workforce looking to obtain specialized technical skills for digital technology jobs.'
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