Sun Hit With Discrimination Suit

In a class action suit against Sun, a former employee charges the company with age and race discrimination.

In a class action suit against Sun Microsystems Inc., a former Sun employee claims the company discriminated against him and other employees when it layed off about 2,500 workers in 2001.

Former Sun software engineering manager Walter Kruz, in his suit filed March 17 in Santa Clara County (Calif.) Superior Court, claimed that Sun engaged in age and race discrimination when it fired him and others. Kruz claimed that Sun unfairly favored younger, often lower-paid workers of East Indian origin when deciding whom to lay off in 2001. In addition, Kruz alleged, even as the company was laying off 2,500 employees in July and October of 2001, Sun was hiring 2,400 East Indian H-1B visa holders, many to perform jobs similar to those formerly held by the laid-off workers. Kruz, 52, said Sun attempted to conceal these acts which, he claims, violate Californias Fair Employment and Housing Act and its Unfair Competition Law.

Sun officials, at the time this article was being prepared, were not available for comment.

The suit does not specify damages, nor does it identify other individuals who, it claims, were affected by Suns alleged actions.

The Kruz suit contends that Suns bias in favor of hiring employees of East Indian origin became more pronounced over time. It alleges that few employees of East Indian origin were affected by the 2001 layoffs. And it quotes from an interview given by Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla to the 60 Minutes television program in which he allegedly said that at Sun, East Indians are "favored over almost anybody else. If you are a WASP walking in for a job, you wouldnt have as much pre-assigned credibility as you do if youre an engineer from [the Indian Institute of Technology]."

The suit also cites an employee rating system introduced in March of 2001 at Sun as having contributed to the alleged discrimination. The system, referred to as "Forced Rating" required that, for each review period, no fewer than 10 percent of Sun employees be given "underperforming" ratings. The suit claims the "Forced Rating" system made it easier for Sun to allegedly discriminate against older, non-East Indian employees.

Kruzs attorney in the case, James A. Caputo of San Diego, has been involved in other discrimination cases against Sun, including one in U.S. District Court in Colorado.