California for Justice Timelines

September 26th, 2023
The September 5 email received only 1 response from California representatives. 0 reps offered to share their caste identities despite a majority having voted for Bill SB403. We sent a reminder to the reps with email below
Dear California representative, 

We are concerned that Bill SB 403 sits on the Governor's desk without any of our recommended SB403 Safeguards being discussed publicly by legislative bodies. To highlight the need for the safeguards, we are following up on the email below where we repeat our request for your response. 

1. Are you aware of the Civil Rights Department's (CRD) open abuse against minority communities on the basis of its notions of perceived caste?*  Yes or No 
2. Are you aware of fraudulent survey data that was presented by the bill's activist sponsor to the assembly and senate?**  Yes or No 
3. Are you aware that inherited characteristics like height (tall/short/dwarf), wealth (rich/poor), looks (ugly/pretty), selective genetic traits (eye color, hair color), religion constitute a caste (or ancestral characteristic) under SB403's broad and vague definition? (ie a perceived position in a system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status)? Yes or No 
4. If you are in support of Bill SB403, are you aware of your own caste? and could you share your caste _____________________? If, as SB403 suggests, caste is indeed a universal system in common understanding, it should follow that all Californians have such an identity as their representatives in the legislature.

We appreciate your acknowledgement that you received this email. 

Thank you, 
California for Justice 
californiaforjustice.com | SB403 Safeguards | 


* CRD's case against Cisco is the sole case in the history of California on caste. Public records of CRD abuse are collated at castegate.org 
** Equality Labs survey data thrown out by a judge in Cisco case and repeatedly refuted in academic journals. These reports were created by an activist for-profit organization Equality labs remain cited in legislative analysis done for California Assembly and Senate thus misinforming the process by manipulating the data. See bigoted statements by the founder of Equality labs here (who has shared stage with bill sponsoring senator) to understand motives behind such a. No legislature in both judicial councils ever asked a critical question on the survey or its purveyors despite the repeated lack of any uncorroborated data. 
September 11th, 2023
Email to office of Attorney General
Subject Urgent appeal regarding SB403 

Dear Attorney General Rob Bonta,

We hope this message finds you well. We are writing as representatives of a grassroots organization of California technology workers. Our primary concern pertains to the severe misrepresentations of the  California Civil Rights Department (CRD) on the allegations of caste discrimination against Cisco Systems Inc., and the subsequent actions—or lack thereof—taken by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD).

We believe it is critical for both you and the Governor to be aware of the substantial concerns arising from the CRD's handling of these allegations. Given that SB 403 is currently under consideration, we must emphasize that the CRD is slated to be the authority responsible for enforcing this proposed legislation if it becomes law.

Enclosed, please find the following documents for your consideration:
1. A letter to the CRD and Kevin Kish, dated June 7th, 2023, with the reference Ticket Number #112881. To date, we have received neither an update nor acknowledgment regarding this matter.
2. A Change.org petition directed at the Governor's office, which has already garnered over 1,000 signatures. The petition outlines numerous grievances concerning the CRD's handling of caste discrimination issues, affecting not just Cisco employees but Californians across various sectors.
3. A list of seven specific recommendations aimed at preventing the CRD from potentially misusing its authority in cases related to caste discrimination, particularly if SB 403 is enacted.

We understand the weighty responsibilities that your office bears, including enforcing and upholding the law, protecting the public interest, and ensuring justice. Given the gravity of the issues at hand and their potentially far-reaching impact on the citizens of California, we earnestly request that you take these concerns seriously.

With rumors suggesting an imminent decision on SB 403, we ask that you convey this information to the Governor as a matter of urgency, ideally today. We seek your prompt attention to this matter and request acknowledgement that our concerns regarding the CRD's actions in the Cisco caste discrimination case—and steps for preventing further issues—have been conveyed to the Governor.

We have escalated this matter to you since the CRD continues to ignore our desperate pleas. Please acknowledge the letter (unlike the CRD) and ensure it has reached the Governor

Thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your prompt acknowledgement. 

Sincerely,
California For Justice
californiaforjustice.com | SB403 Safeguards | 
Sep 6th, 2023
Letter shared with Governor Newsom
September 6, 2023

The Honorable Governor Gavin Newsom
1021 O Street, Suite 9000
Sacramento, CA 95814

Respected Governor Newsom,

We are a grassroots organization of California technology workers. Our primary concern relates to the allegations made against Cisco Systems Inc. concerning caste discrimination and the subsequent actions by the Civil Rights Department (CRD). Since the CRD case against Cisco revolved around the issue of perceptions of caste, we want to express our concerns and seek your attention on the urgent matter of SB403. Below is a list of the actions we've taken thus far.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We believe that addressing these issues is vital for the well-being of Californians and the technology industry in the state.

Please find enclosed:
Letter to the CRD and Kevin Kish (ticket number #112881) 
Change.org petition addressed to Governor's office listing issues with the CRD’s handing of the caste issue 
List of safeguards we recommend for your consideration to include in SB403 to prevent future abuse   

Sincerely,
California for Justice
September 5th, 2023
Questions around SB 403 sent to Legislatures
Dear California representative, 

As SB403 gets presented to the State Senate and makes it way to the Governor desk, here are 4 things we would like to know from you

1. Are you aware of the Civil Rights Department's (CRD) open abuse against minority communities on the basis of its notions of perceived caste?*  Yes or No 

2. Are you aware of fraudulent survey data that was presented by the bill's activist sponsor to the assembly and senate?**  Yes or No 

3. Are you aware that inherited characteristics like height (tall/short/dwarf), wealth (rich/poor), looks (ugly/pretty), selective genetic traits (eye color, hair color), religion constitute a caste under SB403's broad and vague definition? (ie a perceived position in a system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status)? Yes or No 

4. Are you aware of your own caste? and could you share  _____________________. If, as SB403 suggests, caste is indeed a universal system in common understanding, it should follow that all Californians have such an identity as do their representatives in the legislature.

Please acknowledge receipt of this email. 

Thank you, 
California for Justice 
californiaforjustice.com | SB403 Safeguards | 


* CRD's case against Cisco is the sole case in the history of California on caste. Public records of CRD abuse are collated at castegate.org 
** Equality Labs survey data thrown out by a judge in Cisco case and repeatedly refuted in academic journals. These reports were created by an activist for-profit organization Equality labs remain cited in legislative analysis done for California Assembly and Senate thus misinforming the process by manipulating the data. See bigoted statements by the founder of Equality labs here (who has shared stage with bill sponsoring senator) to understand motives behind such a. No legislature in both judicial councils ever asked a critical question on the survey or its purveyors despite the repeated lack of any uncorroborated data. 
August 30th, 2023
Email to Legislative Staff to request to considering addition of safeguards to SB403
Link to site letter 

Dear Legislatures,  

We represent a diverse group of  employees both in the California tech sector and beyond. We are representing thousands of concerned coworkers, supervisors and managers and California residents. 

We request the following safeguards in SB-403 to protect all California residents including marginalized community voices , especially in light of the abuse and overreach by the California Civil Rights Department in the name of caste. We want to prevent what happened to the Cisco engineers and their 50+ coworkers from ever happening again to any fellow Californian.

Kindly acknowledge this email and treat it as urgent.

Thank you,
California for Justice

==================Safeguards requested========================

As a grassroots organization of technology workers, we are writing to express the following concerns about Senate Bill 403, a bill that, in effect, codified “caste”, and will lead to unprecedented judicial abuse. We plead with you to ensure that SB403 does not codify into California law the horrific abuse by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) of the two Cisco Indian American managers and victimization of their 50+ co-workers in the Cisco team. The following letter outlines each of our concerns and suggested safeguards to address those concerns.  

1.CRD Overreach via Forced Assignment of Caste: In the Cisco case, the CRD assigned caste to the primary defendant, who had disavowed both religion and caste. The CRD also assigned upper-caste status to all the 50+ Cisco co-workers. 

Our Ask: 
Add explicit safeguards in SB403 to prevent caste from ever being forcibly assigned on any defendant. 

2. CRD Abuse of Process, Leading to Loss of Trust in Prosecutors: In the Cisco case, the CRD fabricated “facts”, lied about the chronology of the events referenced in the case, and hid critical material evidence from the judge (that the CRD sued Dr. Iyer, the main manager in the Cisco case, despite he having offered all of his three top leadership positions to another senior Dalit colleague, including the position that the CRD claims discrimination over for their Dalit plaintiff) , per public court records1. Indian American community has lost its faith in the fairness of CRD in litigating cases related to “caste”. Despite this, Senator Wahab wants to hand over caste litigation to the CRD. 

Our Ask: 
Immediately strip the CRD of all authority on any such claims. Begin a formal investigation on the CRD. 

3. Selective Enforcement via Codification of Oppressor vs Oppressed Castes: In the Cisco case, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the CRD arbitrarily (and falsely) manufactured an oppressor-oppressed narrative, labeled some employees as “upper” caste, accused them of setting  up a “caste hierarchy” against a colleague, whom CRD labeled as a “lowest caste” Dalit. SB403 perpetuates this: it defines caste as a “perceived position in a system of social stratification”2, thus targeting those who are arbitrarily perceived as higher up in society, and codifies into law that some are oppressors, while others oppressed. This is unconstitutional.

By including the the word "perceived position" the bill further raises couple more constitutional concerns 
(a) Since perceptions are diverse and even contradictory, there is inherent vagueness in the language of the bill about whose perception and what markers are useful to indicate reasonable standard of neutrality. We are concerned that vagueness will get intentionally weaponized3. Vague standards violate due process making South Asians communities uniquely vulnerable to miscarriage of justice. 
(b) Based on the bill, the difference between an action being right or wrong could be the "perception" of an identity irrespective of any basis in reality. The bill thus forces the executive to violate the First amendment as it limits the free exercise of speech by criminalizing actions based on perception. 

Our Ask: 
Remove all references to social stratification (ie. any social hierarchies or ranking) and "perceived position" in SB403.   

4. Selective Enforcement Via State-Sponsored Scrutiny of Marriage in South Asian Community: SB403 defines caste as “socially enforced restrictions on marriage”. This means that South Asian American supervisors who want to marry their own kind (“endogamy”), will be held as more casteist, than other ethnic societies not associated with caste4.  Such targeting of marriage in the South Asian community is eerily reminiscent of apartheid-era South Africa. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi (who was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inspiration in the American Civil Rights fight) developed his model of nonviolent resistance in response to the South African criminalization of marriages in the Indian community.

Our Ask: 
Remove all references to “socially enforced restrictions on marriage”. Endogamy cannot be used as a marker for casteism.

5. Selective Enforcement Via State-Sponsored Scrutiny of Personal Habits of South Asians: SB403 defines caste as “social exclusion on the basis of perceived status.” Whom someone does or does not socialize with is a personal preference of an individual, and can not be legislated by the State of California. Any criminalization of the socialization preferences of an individual infringes upon the rights of the citizens to privacy, and must be beyond the scope of workplace anti-discrimination laws.

Our Ask: 
Remove all references to “social exclusion” from SB403. 

6. Racial Targeting via Bigoted and Contradictory Definition of Caste to Shame Hindus and South Asians: California textbooks teach that caste is an essentially Hindu construct and Indians discriminate against “lower caste” people, shaming Hindu American students, most of whom have no connection with caste. SB403 was initially conceived and worded in a similarly bigoted fashion. 

Our Ask: 
The legislature acknowledges the institutionalized bigotry in the California society against Hindus and addresses that in some manner in SB403.

7. Racial Targeting Rooted in False and Flawed Data: In the Cisco case, the Equality Labs survey (which has been widely criticized for being unscientific and is replete with methodological errors and biases), was used to target so-called “upper-caste” Indian Americans. Yet,  it was used in the legislature, even after it was rejected as evidence by the Cisco judge, Drew Takaichi.

Our Ask: 
Have the California legislature disavow the Equality Labs survey to preserve the integrity of the political process.
Propose a bi-partisan study to understand the extent of caste discrimination; pause SB403 bill until the study is complete so that sanctity of State of California’s legislative process remains intact and hundreds of thousands of Indian Americans are not subjected to institutionalized bigotry through this highly flawed process.

Defending lawsuits in California can run into several thousands of dollars and lead to years of hardship on families facing such lawsuits. It can ruin reputations of innocent, defenseless people, as the Cisco case shows. For something as complex and as poorly defined as caste, litigating SB403 with its current definition, can easily require more than half a million dollars based on some estimates (excluding the need for experts on caste, etc.). This inequitable balance of judicial and financial burden on individuals and businesses that hire South Asians will force them to settle, in essence leading to a miscarriage of Justice. We plead with you to take our concerns into account and address these flaws before passing it. 

Thank you,
California for Justice 

http://www.castegate.org ↩︎
https://www.dictionary.com/browse/social–stratification, “the hierarchical structures of class and status in any society” ↩︎
Equality labs report sections for “Appendix V” and “Survey Hurdles”, and “Further Cleaning up Tasks Included” exemplify this issue in practice. ↩︎
Caste is associated with South Asians more than any other ethnicity. SB403’s activist sponsor Equality Labs, and activist declarations to the Cisco judge, book chapters submitted by the CRD, the legislative history of the bill, California’s school textbooks, the CRD in their complaint, and several dictionaries – all associate caste with either Hindus, or South Asians. ↩︎
July 5th 2023
Public Petition to Governor Newsom garners hundreds of signatures to investigate CRD
Link to petition

We, the undersigned individuals, seek your urgent intervention to investigate the California Civil Rights Department (CRD, formerly known as the DFEH) for prosecutorial abuse and wanton and reckless disregard for the civil rights of Californians in the tech industry.


In June 2020, CRD filed suit in Superior Court of the state of California alleging that Cisco Systems and two engineers of Indian origin, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, engaged in discrimination and harassment on the basis of caste. After a protracted three-year battle, where the CRD with activist collaborators launched an unprecedented publicity campaign vilifying the engineers. The CRD withdrew its case against them after the agency was served a motion for sanctions.


The Motion for Sanctions sheds light on a shocking number of procedural, factual, and legal irregularities and errors made by the CRD. To highlight just a few:  

1. Court records indicate CRD’s actions were motivated by malice accompanied by a blatant disregard for the First Amendment and Due Process rights of the individual defendants, the 40+ other Cisco employees who worked with the individual defendants, as well as every Hindu and/or person of Indian origin living or working in the State of California. The CRD made racist stereotypes about Indians and Hindus at Cisco as bigots, who were adherents of an equally bigoted religion, Hinduism. They didn’t bother interviewing most of the Cisco co-workers of Indian origin whom they smeared and implicated as engaging in unlawful conduct. 

2. A public repository of official records points to 40+ corrupt actions, fabrications of 5+ deliberate fabrications, 6 intentional tampering of dates, extortion, and many other violations of law. What was equally egregious was the disingenuous allegation of caste discrimination and harassment of an individual identifying as “Dalit” in a group where every leadership position was first awarded to another individual who also identified as “Dalit”. The CRD willfully ignored and remained unresponsive to repeated requests and earnest pleas, both in private and public spheres,  from affected employees, failing to even acknowledge the harm caused by its intentional disregard of exculpatory, verifiable facts. 

3. The CRD assigned a religion and an alleged religious practice - caste, to an openly irreligious manager. The CRD labelled other Indian American coworkers of various faiths like Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, and Atheists as "upper castes". These blatant First Amendment violations by the state are deeply concerning to all 40 Million Californians. 

4. The CRD, in coordination with an openly anti-Hindu hate group (who calls Hindus the original Nazis), further racially profiled Hindu and Indian Americans blanketly accusing them six times in court of committing physical assaults and rapes of 1 in 4 Dalit Americans with absolutely zero evidence. Despite a California judge rejecting these baseless allegations, the CRD has doubled down on these false and unverified allegations, and continues to perpetuate xenophobic comments about Indian Americans. This three-year state-funded smear campaign targeting Indian Americans, which has unleashed hate against Indian Americans throughout the state and in print and social media around the world, is unpardonable for an agency which is tasked with fighting hate in California. 
Unfortunately, all of this has occurred under your tenure as Governor, in spite of public statements you’ve made recognizing the struggles faced by immigrant AAPI communities, who have been targets of violence, disenfranchisement, and xenophobic policies at the federal, state, and local levels.

We acknowledge and appreciate that just last year you took decisive action against two of the CRD’s lead prosecutors for their unethical conduct in an unrelated case. These are the very same prosecutors who filed the case against Cisco, Iyer and Kompella, ignoring, amongst many things, their duty to not only enforce civil rights law, but to uphold it.  With a well documented history of egregious behavior against other California companies that has garnered national attention, CRD’s audacity in the Cisco case eclipses its past misconduct and abuse of power. 


Without consequences, the CRD stands poised to harm rather than help Californians -- ruining the lives of individuals either by pursuing false and politicized claims that lack factual or legal merit or eroding public trust in the law and making it that much more difficult for workers who have faced actual discrimination or harassment to obtain redress.


We, the people of California, cannot have the state agency tasked with upholding civil rights, trampling all over them. As such, we request that the CRD’s unethical, reckless, and harmful conduct against Cisco Systems, Sundar Iyer, and Ramana Kompella be investigated and addressed to ensure that other Californians are not similarly and unfairly targeted by the State, and more broadly, for the well-being and future prosperity of our state and its people. 
June 23rd, 2023
Letter sent to Hon. Chair Assembly Judiciary Committee
June 23, 2023

Hon. Chair Assembly Judiciary Committee
Capitol Office, 1021 O Street, Suite 5640

Subject: Senate Bill 403 (A Wahab)
Assembly Judiciary Committee – June 23, 2023

Dear Chair,
We are a diverse group of current and former Cisco employees . Due to misrepresentations made by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) in court documents against our organization’s culture and ethics, we experienced a detrimental impact on our lives.

As dismayed civilians, shocked California residents, and maligned American employees, we share our account. We are driven solely by a pursuit of justice as concerned individuals with no malice.

Below is the letter that has been signed by 30+ individuals in our community and has been sent to the director of the CRD.

We have emailed to CRD and its hate portal and mentioned in the website too. The only correspondence we received since posting the letter on 7th June was ticket number 112881 on 8th June.
June 7th, 2023
Letter requesting an apology was signed by 30+ Cisco employees. It is sent to CRD and its Director Kevin Kish. Automated reply assured response in 3-5 days with ticket #112881
Link to letter 
Subject: Concerns arising from California CRD actions. 

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.
April 10th, 2023
CRD withdraws their complaint against the two individual managers
The CRD withdraws their complaint against Cisco Engineers. CRD did not issue any apologies to Cisco employees or exonerate of the implied guilt projected by its misrepresentations in public filings despite knowing the immense harm caused to many in their personal and professional life
June 30th, 2020
DFEH sues Cisco
While trying to protect civil rights for all Californians, CRD made broad stroke statements about Cisco, and minority communities. In an unusual move it issues a press release leading to large scale biased coverage against the company and its employees