Sun sued for 'replacing' Americans with Indians
WASHINGTON: The lawsuit claims that Sun had a bias in favour of hiring people from India, according to a report in the Boston Globe newspaper.
To support the claim, the lawsuit cited as evidence statements made this year by Sun's India-born co-founder, Vinod Khosla, on CBS television programme "60 Minutes" that at Sun, people from India "are favoured over almost anybody else".
It is feared that the lawsuit, filed in California's Superior Court in Santa Clara, will trigger an intense debate between high tech companies and American engineers over the future of the H1-B visa programme.
Under the programme, companies like Sun Microsystems are allowed to temporarily bring in foreign workers into the U.S.
The high-tech companies contend that H1-B visas provide well-trained foreign workers who have skills that are hard to find in the domestic labour force.
But U.S. workers argue that at a time when unemployment is high among American engineers and computer programmers, the H1-B programme was mainly being used to bring in cheaper labour from overseas.
The California case was brought by Walter Kruz, 52, who was an employee at Sun from May 2000 until late 2001. During that period, Kruz says, Sun laid off about 2,500 of its workers in the U.S.
While Kruz is currently the only plaintiff, his attorney, James Caputo, is planning to convert it into a class action suit by roping in hundreds of other Sun workers who he believes received similar treatment, the Globe said.
According to the lawsuit, hardly any of those laid off by Sun were people of Indian origin. Instead, the company allegedly created a performance evaluation programme under which employees who worked for a short time were exempted from the programme, favouring H1-B visa holders, but got rid of older, America-born workers for being under-performers.
At the same time, the lawsuit alleged that Sun was seeking permission to import about 2,400 foreign workers, mostly from India, to fill technical jobs. Many of these jobs were advertised in the U.S., as required under federal law.
But the lawsuit alleged that Sun refused to consider any of the laid-off U.S. workers for positions, effectively ensuring that the jobs would go to Indian workers on H-1B visas.
By law, H1-B workers are supposed to receive the same pay as U.S. workers in the same job. But Kruz's attorney, Caputo, said this requirement could be easily evaded.
Kruz's lawsuit sought compensation for discrimination based on race, national origin and age, besides lost wages, attorneys' fees and unspecified punitive damages.
According to the Globe report, a spokeswoman for Sun said her company's attorneys had not had a chance to review the complaint. But she noted that the company had successfully defended itself against similar charges.
The most recent such case was that of a former systems administrator, Guy Santiglia, who took her case of discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Departments of Labour and Justice.
All the three federal agencies dismissed the claims, ruling that Sun's use of the H1-B programme was appropriate.