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Relief to Brahmin engineers: Govt body dismisses the Cisco case, Setback to Ambedkarite narrative

Washington: Two Brahmin engineers Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella who were blamed for caste-based discrimination are now proven innocent after the government body voluntarily dismissed its case. The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) voluntarily dismissed its case in Superior Court on April 10, 2023, following a nearly three-year legal battle that made global headlines.

The dismissal comes just a few months after the Hindu American Foundation filed a Section 1983 claim in US District Court, asserting that the CRD’s case against Cisco and the engineers infringed on the civil rights of Hindus living in California. The Foundation’s claim took no position on the facts of the case.

Sources close to the CRD case revealed that the Foundation’s federal civil rights claim may have played a critical role in kickstarting the case’s dismissal. The engineers had also filed a motion for sanctions against the CRD, alleging that the State engaged in prosecutorial abuse and unethical conduct, including suppressing and fabricating key evidence.

The engineers argued that the CRD had no right to define what Hindus believe and no standing to assign them a religion or caste upon which presumptions about wrongdoing are made on the basis of their national origin or ancestry. The CRD’s lead attorney pursuing the Cisco case was fired over another case, and both the constitutional issues raised by the manner in which CRD pursued its case against Cisco and the fabrication of evidence against the engineers became increasingly clear.

What was the case?

The State of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Cisco Systems in June  2020, accusing the company of engaging in unlawful employment practices over a claim by an Indian-origin employee (John Doe) that two managers, also of Indian origin, allegedly discriminated against him on the basis of his assumed caste. The case was initially filed in federal court but has since been re-filed in state court. Cisco Systems promises a vigorous defence, rejecting the claim of discrimination. However, a toxic online campaign was spinning against the duo due to their caste identities.

In this lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) on behalf of John Doe, the DFEH wrongfully claims that both his seniors mistreated him because he is a member of the lowest caste in the Indian caste system. Whereas Kompella in his declaration given to the superior court of California has said that the DFEH grounds these absurd accusations solely on the fact that he was born into an upper social caste Brahmin family, and therefore must actively support caste hierarchy in my
personal and professional lives.

Doe does not want to complete his work

As per the court trial, it was found that Doe and Kompella joined Cisco at approximately the same time at the same Principal Engineer level. Around November 2016 Kompella was made the (titular and temporary) Head of Engineering to lead the engineering team and deliver the product. This was not a promotion nor
did it come With any additional benefits or compensation. However, this changed the dynamic from peer status to supervisor status. During the course of the role of Kompella as titular Head of Engineering, it became apparent that Doe had little interest in timely completing tasks, choosing instead to be insubordinate, and confrontational, and create a disruptive working environment.

In one such instance, the critical release was delayed because Doe neglected to address software bugs for which he was responsible. Luckily another engineer resolved the issue.

The time case turned ugly

In February 2018, Sundar Iyer stepped down as the head of the project on which Kompella worked with Doe. As result, he became the interim head of the project until a permanent replacement could be located. Kompella’s manager instructed him to maintain the status quo during this transition period, avoiding any major organizational decisions. Subsequently, Kompella approached his manager to discuss a strategy for handling Doe’s poor work ethic, which resulted in a conversation between Doe, his manager, and Kompella. During that conversation, the manager suggested to Doe that he submit weekly reports to ensure transparency in his work. As a result of this, Doe falsely accused his seniors that they are mistreating him just because of his caste.

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