Infosys and Discrimination in Employment

Infosys is in news again, yet another law suit. The news report in BusinessLine says “Brenda Koehler, an IT worker with over 15 years industry experience, has alleged that while she was qualified for the position to which she applied, Infosys discriminated against her and chose to hire an individual of South Asian descent for the position. She has also claimed that the company systematically discriminates against people of non-South Asian descent.”

This should not surprise any HR manager. Such allegations are so common that a law suit in highly litigious society like USA is not at all surprising. Moreover big corporates are sitting ducks for making a quick buck on such issues, or so at least litigants feel when they go to Court.

Here at home, Shiv Sena’s very power base increased because they launched a tirade against South Indians playing favourites and employing their own kith and kin. That was perhaps the most visible protest against perceived favouritism in employment. ‘Marmik’ the mouthpiece of Shiv Sena used to publish names of employees in a company with names of south Indians marked in bold letters to make their point.

If you recall discussions in corporate parties where people share what they feel, whether it is based on data or not, more often the latter, you will realise that such charges are made against almost all companies.

Here are some: Kirloskars were accused of favouring Brahmins, particularly Karhade Brahmins in employment. Godrej and Tatas were seen to be playing favourites to Parsee community, but since most Parsees are so friendly and they constitute a very miniscule, almost negligible proportion of the workforce, it was a no-threat situation. TVS group is seen as one which favours employment of people from southern part of the country. And these are just a few instances.

Even when companies recruit MBAs, people perceive the differentiation. There are charges of a particular company favouring MBAs from IIM-C or IIM-A, discriminating against lesser known institutes. Sometimes against even other IIMs. One of the most high profile MNC is accused of 'differentiating' [read discriminating] between those who joined from campus and those who were later recruited as ‘laterals.’ And yes, there is the huge distinction between MBAs and those ‘who come up from ranks.’

In Government circles, interestingly both reserved category candidates and those in the non-quota class feel discriminated against.

Many of these allegations are perceptions, and in any case, these are difficult to prove, if not frivolous
allegations. A selection process involves a judgement and that cannot be objective. It is difficult for many of us to accept a ‘No’ in a selection process – we take it as a sign of rejection. For some it is a difficult feeling to overcome.

An article in Psychology Today says, “Remember how we discussed speaking of rejection in passive voice: "I was rejected"? Well, studies have found that after rejection not only do we think passively, but also we act passively.” That’s interesting, and yes, it is true.

But as James Lee Burke says, “There's nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” That is of course a personal choice!

Vivek

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