Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy

Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy


America's tech giants are taking a modern-day crash course in India's ancient caste system, with Apple emerging as an early leader in policies to rid Silicon Valley of a rigid hierarchy that's segregated Indians for generations.

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Apple, the world's biggest listed company, updated its general employee conduct policy about two years ago to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste, which it added alongside existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age and ancestry.

The inclusion of the new category, which has not been previously reported, goes beyond US discrimination laws, which do not explicitly ban casteism.

The update came after the tech sector - which counts India as its top source of skilled foreign workers - received a wake-up call in June 2020 when California's employment regulator sued Cisco Systems on behalf of a low-caste engineer who accused two higher-caste bosses of blocking his career.

Cisco, which denies wrongdoing, says an internal probe found no evidence of discrimination and that some of the allegations are baseless because caste is not a legally "protected class" in California.

This month an appeals panel rejected the networking company's bid to push the case to private arbitration, meaning a public court case could come as early as next year.