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What is caste discrimination?

It seems like people have always found ways to divide each other into groups — and that “us” versus “them” mentality is hard to overcome.

In India, the ancient caste system divided people into rigid social groups based on their familial duties and occupational class. While the caste system was officially abolished around 70 years ago, old prejudices die very hard, indeed.

They can even end up migrating to another country — like the United States — along with the immigrants who come from that land.

Caste discrimination is proving to be a problem in Silicon Valley

A lawsuit prompted by an Indian-American and picked up by California regulators is slowly wending its way through the courts against Cisco Systems Inc. The employee alleges that his employer failed to protect him from discrimination and harassment by two of his managers — who were also Indian-Americans.

Why was the employee being targeted?

The managers discovered that the employee was a member of the Dalit caste — which is on the lowest rung of the Indian social structure. After reporting the issue to Cisco, the employee was told that caste discrimination wasn’t illegal. Not only did the abuse continue, but in retaliation, the employee was isolated, reassigned, denied promotions and given fewer opportunities for advancement.

The state believes that caste discrimination falls under protections given by Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under the umbrella of race and color discrimination, among other possibilities.

For now, there’s no official ruling, but other reports indicate that this is not an isolated issue in Silicon Valley. Industry insiders say that caste discrimination may just now be getting attention, but it’s a problem everywhere in the technology industry — where many Indian-American immigrants work.

When you experience workplace discrimination, fight back

You have a right to be free of discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace. If you’re uncertain what to do about your situation as the victim of caste discrimination, it may be time to speak to an attorney.