U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken in the Northern District of California issued an order April 2 granting a motion by two former workers for Tata Consultancy Services, Ltd., and parent firm Tata Sons, Ltd., to continue a class-action lawsuit against the India-based information technology provider.
In 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Northern California had denied an earlier motion by Tata to compel arbitration of the lawsuit in India and to dismiss the nationwide class-action lawsuit (I-W, Aug. 14, 2009).
The two non-U.S. citizen employees, Gopi Vedachalam and Kangana Beri, were sent to the U.S. from India for IT work.
In their complaint, initially filed Feb. 14, 2006, Vendachalam and Beri allege that Tata breached the standard employment contract by “forcing all non-U.S. citizen employees to sign over their federal and state tax refunds to Tata” and by deducting their Indian salary from their pay.
They also claim TCS “deprived its employees in California of earned wages and accurate wage statements in violation of the California Labor Code.”
“More than 10,000 current and former Indian nationals working for Tata in America now may have their day in court,” Kelly M. Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco, co-lead class counsel for the plaintiffs, said in an April 2 press release.
“We look forward to demonstrating at trial that Tata breached the standard employment contract with these employees and violated California labor laws.”
Vedachalam said in a statement, “I am very happy with the court’s decision today. It means that my former colleagues and I are one step closer to holding Tata accountable.”
A spokesman for TCS, India's largest software exporter by sales, told The Wall Street Journal in an e-mailed statement that the court order is “only on one procedural matter and does not address the merits of this case.”
“TCS continues to believe that when this matter concludes, the court will find that the plaintiffs’ claims are without any merit,” the statement added.
Wilkin has certified two classes: one consisting of all non-U.S. citizens who were employed by Tata in the U.S. any time from Feb. 14, 2002, through June 30, 2005, and who were sent to the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2002; and a California class asserting California Labor Code violations, consisting of all non-U.S. citizens who were employed by Tata in California at any time from Feb. 14, 2002, through June 30, 2005, and who were sent to California after Jan. 1, 2002.