(Adds details from ruling and context on caste)
By Paresh Dave
OAKLAND, Calif., Aug 5 (Reuters) - Cisco Systems Inc
CSCO.O on Friday lost a court appeal to move to private
arbitration a case over alleged caste discrimination in its
Silicon Valley offices, where managers of Indian descent are
accused of bias against a fellow employee from India.
The networking gear and business software company has denied
the allegations. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2E801T It had argued to a California
appeals court that the state's Civil Rights Department, which
had brought the case on behalf of a worker identified under the
pseudonym John Doe, should be subjected to an employment
arbitration agreement signed by Doe.
"As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled
to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered," the
appellate panel wrote.
In a separate order Friday, it told a lower-court judge to
reconsider a ruling that would have required the state to
identify Doe. The lower court had said the law prevented it from
considering whether Doe's family members in India could be
harmed by naming him.
The higher court wrote that "harm to family members anywhere
is a legitimate consideration in determining whether a party
should be granted anonymity."
Cisco and the state agency did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
The ancient socioreligious concept of caste has led to
centuries of oppression against some families born into the
lowest groupings in India. California has alleged that those
biases had traveled to the U.S. tech industry, where Indians are
the largest pool of immigrant workers.
The state sued Cisco in 2020 after Doe complained to it
about company human resources staff not finding merit in his
concerns that two higher-caste managers had allegedly denied him
work and disparaged him.
The lawsuit has ignited advocacy at U.S. companies,
universities and other institutions calling for more guidelines
and training related to the potential for caste prejudice.
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio & Shri