Three former employees claim they were forced out of their jobs and replaced with "less qualified" Indians 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.
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 Indian 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.
While TCS, Infosys and Wipro are 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).
(With assistance from Robert Burnson.To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.org To contact the editors responsible for this story: Elizabeth Wollman at email@example.com Peter Blumberg)