The Hartford Advocate, one of the leading independent newspapers in the state, this week issued an cover article with a provocative sub-headline "There are thousands of Indians in Hartford and they are big players in Hartford’s biggest companies. But they face silent discrimination from those who think they are stealing jobs."
A dramatic assertion. Is it true?
If it is, the article certainly does not provide any factual support for it. No comments from a anti-Indian movement. No labor statistics showing a "glass ceiling" for Indian workers. No statistics on discrimination claims filed locally or nationally.
Here’s the article’s apparent support for it:
But despite their apparent success, Indian immigrants still face issues of discrimination in the workplace, particularly if they aspire to rise into the ranks of management (notwithstanding the obvious exception of Ramani Ayer, chairman and chief executive officer of The Hartford).
“You notice right away that if [a management position] comes up you don’t have a chance,” said Thakorbhai U. Patel, an electrical engineer at Northeast Utilities for more than 30 years before retiring in 1999.
Patel, 76, who answers to his initials, “TUP,” said that in England, where he began his career, he was told flat-out he would go only so far. In America, it was never that explicit, but it was equally unmistakable.
That’s it? A comment from someone who left the workforce nearly a decade ago and worked at the same company for 30 years? And what does it mean to have "apparent success?"
Now, I am not suggesting that subtle discrimination does not exist in society; I’m sure it does. But it’s irresponsible for the media to make such broad-sweeping assertions without at least some factual support.
Indeed, to discount Mr. Ayer’s rise in at The Hartford and the dramatic impact he has had both at the Hartford, but at companies and non-profits in Connecticut, is truly a shame. Mr. Ayer’s contributions over the last decade as CEO surely must count for something in the prominence of Americans of Indian descent in Hartford.
So what are the facts? There are no publicly available statistics in Connecticut to show how many discrimination cases of "South Asian" or "Indian" discrimination were filed, but "National Origin" Discrimination claims (which encompass far more than the above characteristics if the claims are filed under that aspect, instead of say, "race") make up less than 17 percent of all employment cases filed last year.
Based on my informal discussions with other attorneys in the area, I suspect that there were just a handful of claims that were filed last year on such grounds, if that. If there is discrimination against people from India in employment matters, the numbers of discrimination claims don’t show a widespread issue.
Whether Americans have complaints against companies that outsource to India is, I believe, a separate issue. (Time magazine recently reported on India’s call centers and the labor market for that sector.) But when people like Bobby Jindal can win the governor’s race in Louisiana, it would be helpful to provide facts when asserting that "silent discrimination" exists.
The Advocate’s article isn’t worth dismissing entirely; its’ remaining discussion of immigrants to the United States is informative and interesting. But it ought to drop the use of misleading headlines and stick to the known facts when discussing discrimination claims..