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The logo of networking equipment maker Cisco Systems is seen at the GSMA 2022 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, ​​Spain, February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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OAKLAND, Calif., Aug 5 (Reuters) – Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) lost a court appeal on Friday to refer a case of alleged caste discrimination at its Silicon Valley office to private arbitration in which a manager of Indian descent was arrested. Alleged bias against Indian colleagues.

The networking equipment and business software company denies the allegations. It had argued to the California Court of Appeals that the state’s civil rights department, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of a worker who went by the pseudonym John Doe, should accept an employment arbitration agreement signed by Doe.

“As an independent party, the U.S. Department of Commerce cannot be compelled to arbitrate pursuant to an agreement it did not reach,” the appeals panel wrote.

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In a separate order Friday, it told a lower court judge to reconsider a ruling requiring the state to determine Doe’s status. The lower court had said the law barred it from considering whether naming Doe as Doe’s family in India would harm him.

The high court wrote that “injury to a family member anywhere is a reasonable consideration in determining whether a party should remain anonymous.”

Cisco and the state agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ancient socio-religious concept of caste has led to centuries of oppression of some families born into the lowest groups in India. California claims these biases have spread to the U.S. tech industry, where Indians make up the largest group of immigrant workers.

In 2020, the state sued Cisco after Doe complained to it that the company’s human resources staff hadn’t caught on to his concerns that two high-caste managers were rejecting his job and belittling him.

The lawsuit has sparked advocacy from U.S. companies, universities and others calling for more guidance and training on the potential for caste bias.

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Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio and Shri Navaratnam

Our standard: Thomson Reuters fiduciary principles.

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