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Tata Consultancy Too Late With ‘Hail Mary’ in Job Bias Case

Aug. 13, 2018, 3:24 PM

Tata Consulting Services can’t limit the potential relief workers may get if the jury sides with them during an upcoming trial in a class action accusing the Indian IT services’ firm of discriminating against Americans and other non-South Asian workers, a federal judge ruled.

The Aug. 10 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California illustrates the risks parties in employment bias cases may run if they wait until the “eve of trial” to raise an argument that could have or should have been raised earlier.

Tata argued that the workers’ request for a court order should they win directing the company to adopt hiring, job placement, and related practices that don’t discriminate based on national origin should be struck because the workers failed to allege that any of them actually sought or are actively seeking to be rehired by the firm. But that “hail-Mary effort at limiting the scope of relief” came too late, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said.

The “back-door attempt” to get the court to reconsider its certification of the workers as a class on their claims under federal anti-bias laws came more than a month after the deadline set on Tata for bringing a decertification motion, the judge said.

Christopher Slaight and a group of other workers say that Tata intentionally favors South Asian and Indian workers when hiring through third-party recruiters and other means. Rogers certified the workers as a class in December 2017 but on July 23 ordered some of the class members to pursue their claims in arbitration rather than court, finding they had signed agreements promising to do so.

The court in September 2015 rejected Tata’s contention that it couldn’t be sued for national origin discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and a related law because it had hired the South Asian and Indian workers through the H-1B visa program for highly skilled guestworkers.

The case is Slaight v. Tata Consultancy Servs., Ltd., 2018 BL 287039, N.D. Cal., No. 15-cv-01696, motion for partial judgment on pleadings denied 8/10/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com