Tata Consultancy granted arbitration and bifurcation motions in discrimination case

By Brandi Fleeks | Aug 9, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge has granted a motion to divide a plaintiff's claims in a class action suit over discrimination claims against a consulting company.

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge has granted a motion to divide a plaintiff's claims in a class action suit over discrimination allegations against a consulting company.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on July 23 granted motions by defendant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to bifurcate plaintiff Brian Buchanan’s claim and compel arbitration for members of the suit with whom the company has arbitration agreements. Rogers denied the TCS motion to decertify the class.

TCS requested to bifurcate Buchanan’s claim since he was never an employee of TCS. The ruling states he was terminated from his position at Southern California Edison (SCE) and subsequently replaced with a TCS employee. Before leaving his position, allegedly he met with a member of the TCS recruitment team during a job fair held by SCE, during which he felt his interest and experience was dismissed. He didn’t inquire about other positions, and TCS never contacted him about his application, the ruling states.

“To allow plaintiffs to present evidence at a trial of Buchanan’s claims would result in confusion and could lead to prejudice against TCS by allowing Buchanan to benefit from factual allegations about TCS’s internal staffing process that are otherwise not relevant to his failure-to-hire claims,” Rogers said in her order.

She also declared that since Buchanan is an individual, private plaintiff, his burden-shifting framework is different from the class claimants’ and the facts he will present are minimally relative. Separating his claim from the class will avoid confusion and prejudice and won’t have any adverse effect on the trial.

In 2015, TCS asked newly hired employees in the U.S. to sign mutual arbitration agreements. There were two types of agreement: a nationwide agreement and a California agreement. The plaintiffs feel the agreements are unenforceable because TCS waived its right to demand arbitration and the nationwide agreement contains an impermissible waiver and unconscionable provisions.

The judge granted the motion to compel arbitration for the members of the suit stating, "plaintiffs knew of the arbitration agreements in drafting their motion for class certification and opposition to TCS’s motion for summary judgment.”

She also ruled in favor of the motion citing the plaintiffs “have failed to make a persuasive argument with respect to unconscionability.”

Rogers denied TCS’s motion to decertify the class on the grounds that she’d already granted the motion to compel arbitration, and that the plaintiffs' evidence against the company supports the claim of discrimination in allocating and de-allocating benched employees to open client projects.

In denying the motion to decertify the class,  Rogers, refined the definition of the class as “all individuals who are not of South Asian race or Indian national origin who were employed by TCS in the United States, were subject to a policy or practice of benching and allocation, were placed in an unallocated status and were terminated between April 14, 2011, and Dec. 27, 2017, and who are not bound by an arbitration agreement with TCS.”    

Plaintiffs Buchanan, Christopher Slaight, Seyed Amir Masoudi and Nobel Mandili filed a class action case against TCS on April 15, 2015, claiming the company discriminated against employees who are not of South Asian or Indian national origin.

United States District Court Northern District of California case number 4:15-cv-01696-YGR

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