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Sacked NRI IT analyst vows to fight on in US
George Joseph in New York | May 24, 2007 18:36 IST
Neelima Tirumalasetti, a victim of outsourcing to India, is determined to continue her fight even though the US Court for Northern District of Texas at Dallas has ruled in favour of her former employer Caremark PCS in Richardson, Texas.
A senior IT analyst in quality assurance, she began to face racial harassment after the news of outsourcing some of the work from the facility to an IBM office in Bangalore spread.
Soon colleagues began to call her 'brown-skinned bitch,' 'dirty Indian,' among other insults, accused her of coming to the US to 'take their jobs,' mocked her accent in team meetings, and excluded her from team projects.
Life turned miserable and there was no help coming from the company, one of the major pharmaceutical firms in the country, which recently merged with CVS.
"I truly and sincerely believe that I did not receive a fair trial. All my claims on retaliation and discrimination were struck down and the only claim that was allowed to go in for trial was the generic hostile environment claim," Tirumalasetti, who plans to appeal the verdict to the Fifth Circuit Court, said.
It was a jury trial, which started April 16 and ended April 23. "My attorneys also feel that it needs to be appealed," she said.
"I truly missed the support from our community in this effort. Fighting this has taken two years of our life, shattered our 'American Dream,' our two small kids suffered along with us and we do not want to give up this now after all that emotional ordeal," she said.
"The company portrayed me in the worst possible way with numerous e-mails claiming that they were written by me. They also had the harassers come in and testify the same story they had practiced," she said.
"The company investigation report was never provided to my attorney citing 'privileged' information. The court did not allow us to investigate the e-mails citing 'privileged' information. So in effect, we had our hands tied trying to prove something that came down to my word against the harassers," she said.
A native of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Tirumalasetti came to the United States in 1998 with a computer diploma. After working in Sprint and Nokia and joined PCS in 2001. PCS was later acquired by Caremark.
Things were going smoothly till December 2003, when the company announced its decision to outsource projects. The employees strongly opposed the move, her lawsuit noted.
The harassment started in January 2004. Her team members accused her of coming to take their jobs. They mocked her accent and called her names. Jokes based on her race, ethnicity and national origin were common, the suit noted. She complained to higher officials and others, but with no results.
Due to the harassment, she fainted at work and had to be admitted to the emergency room, the suit said. Her doctor advised her to take three months leave but the company would not allow that initially. Her claim for short-term medical disability was denied on the ground that she was 'faking.'
When she returned to work in August 2004, things got worse, the complaint said. On the windshield of her car somebody wrote, 'go back to your dirty country and roll in the shit,' 'you bitch, you don't want to live or what,' 'we are going to kill you soon, just leave or we will get you soon.'
Weeks later an unidentified man attempted to break into her home to attack her and her son with a crowbar.
Tirumalasetti suffered a final emotional breakdown after Caremark reassigned her to report to a co-worker she identified as one of her chief harassers -- a junior employee. This co-worker stated that she would 'kill the bitch who complained,' the lawsuit alleged.
In May 2005, she filed a complaint with the EEOC about the discrimination, but it did not investigate or take any action, she said.
Caremark sent Tirumalasetti a termination letter after this.
"Our law firm -- Brewer Legal -- is running out of resources and we definitely need both moral and financial help to keep our fight for justice alive. I am still an Indian citizen and I need help from every Indian," she said.
"The legal battle has changed our life completely. We have exhausted our savings, sold our house and car just to bear expenses and survive. With no health insurance, my medical bills have piled up as a result of the hospitalisation, expensive medication and treatments," she said.
Her husband works as a project manager. The couple has two kids, aged four and two.