California for Justice
We are a diverse group of 30+ Cisco employees solely driven by a pursuit of justice. Here is our open letter to the Director of the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) calling out over 40+ severe misrepresentations made by the CRD against Cisco, coworkers in the group, its culture and ethics.
As employees/alumni of Cisco Systems, we are very concerned that the facts laid out in the public court documents of the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) case against Cisco Systems, display a number of unethical and dishonest statements and narratives to target us and our employer. We are proud of our company, which has been recognised for its outstanding working conditions and a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and we have seen it work hard to establish an ethical culture that promotes openness, generosity, and honesty - all of the values we reflect in our own daily lives. Thus, when allegations of caste discrimination against Cisco in 2020 first arose, we were shocked to hear about an experience so different from ours. The lawsuit presented a poor view of our company, its people, and its culture. Even at a first glance, we found this view to be biased and not representative of our own experiences. We did not speak up then because we assumed better intentions from a state agency — especially since it is a state agency with an inclination towards liberal values and it had taken an unusual step to sue Cisco. The lawsuit has had a detrimental impact on our own personal and social lives. Taking cue from the lawsuit, several activist organizations with no first hand knowledge opportunistically have echoed your accusations, and hundreds of press outlets have reported the lawsuit, with both treating allegations as facts. They have projected a presumption of guilt on every employee in Cisco and more broadly in Silicon Valley. All this has been instrumental in forming the public opinion against our company and shaped a narrative that evoked an emotional response and made objective facts less important. It's been traumatic as many have been forced to assume guilt. We have silently consumed reputational costs. While Cisco has maintained resources to address our concerns at work, the personal and social costs was and is heavy for many of us. We can only describe the last 3 years as a period of prolonged anguish - a flurry of comments and attitudes that have diminished our reputations and indirectly of our sense of self worth. Years of hard work have been reduced to something unworthy because the general assumption is that Cisco and especially its Indian employees are bigoted and discriminatory. In conferences, interviews, and professional organizations we are forced to interact with people who had developed a suspicion about us from malicious reporting. We feel the rug pulled from beneath us leaving us to constantly defend our innocence. People spoke down to us with moral outrage often pressuring us to share their negative outlook of our workplace. Many declared our existence in Cisco as evidence of our ignorant complicity. Attesting against a hypothetical system of discrimination has become the only way to be considered good enough to offer an opinion. The inversion of “innocent before proven guilty” from these accusations means that South Asian tech employees now had to continuously establish their innocence. This has hindered our careers and left a damaging scar on many lives. People avoided social interactions with many colleagues in fear of being subject to, or of being party to some form of perceived discrimination. Especially if they had an immigrant South Asian background, derogatory questions based on a person’s ethnic background are now common. Even the reputed Washington Post, published anonymous letters (platformed by the CRD) without any credible evidence, going to the extent of generalizing that “working with Indian managers is a living hell”. We speak up now because all the sacrifices that have been made by our colleagues, their families, and us would otherwise be entirely wasted. The baseless accusations, racist statements and outright xenophobic comments in multiple court documents, amplified in the media, are the reason why we have been perceived as unworthy for three long tedious years and still continue to take an emotional toll on us. We make difficult daily choices in social circles of what to say or do. The immigrant background has been highlighted as “un-American”. Not wanting to deal with an atmosphere of hatred, some of our colleagues, whilst being on a precarious visa, have left Cisco, the state of California, and even our great Nation. The whole climate of ignorance and fear has been fueled by a network of activist groups that cheered our misery. They have been empowered by the libelous lies of a taxpayer funded state agency. An agency assigned with the noble duty of protecting civil rights has been most blatant in abusing them. As a result of the adverse publicity from the media and state agency’s hyperbole, all employees, especially immigrant South Asians have been deemed responsible for degrading the culture at Cisco. Despite Cisco’s public statements, the reputational harm done to us has not been dispelled. Redress for this harm caused to our personal lives is likely not possible, and the time we have lost is gone forever. Without restitution, our reputations are tarnished permanently. We find it necessary that the CRD apologize publicly and exonerate us of any implied guilt and in so doing help restore our reputations. In the absence of the above, this slander will accompany us to our permanent detriment.