Apple Faces Knock in Engineer’s South Asian Bias Suit

Apple Inc. failed to persuade a judge to dismiss a wrongful firing claim by a former company engineer who says she was discriminated against -- by two male South Asian supervisors -- based on her ethnic Pakistani background.

California state court Judge Sunil R. Kulkarni in San Jose tentatively ruled Wednesday that the woman can move forward with her claim she was fired unlawfully.

The judge wrote that even though Anita Nariani Schulze had resigned her job voluntarily, she meets the legal standard for wrongful termination because she claims she left only after being subjected to a pattern of continuous discrimination.

Schulze’s lawsuit, filed last year, opened a window into how ethnic prejudices from distant lands can pop up in Silicon Valley, where tech giants, always on the hunt for new talent, recruit engineers and technicians from far-flung places with distinct cultures.

Schulze described herself in her 2020 lawsuit as a Hindu Indian woman who traces her ancestry in the Sindh region of what became part of Pakistan after the tumultuous partition of India in 1947.

She said that at Apple one of her supervisors was a Hindu Indian; the other, a Muslim Pakistani. Men with that background consider women as subservient -- and that’s how they treated her, she claimed.

Schulze accused her supervisors of consistently excluding her from meetings, unfairly criticizing her, micromanaging her work, and depriving her of bonuses while at the same time awarding them to the male engineers she supervised.

While allowing her case to move forward, the judge rejected Schulze’s request to represent a class of Apple engineers in similar circumstances. He said she didn’t have standing to do so because she failed to show that any male engineer with a comparable position at Apple was earning more than she was.

“She alleges that male engineers she supervised received bonuses and restricted stock units, while plaintiff did not,” the judge wrote. “But there is no indication that the male engineers’ overall compensation was higher.”

Apple didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours to a request for comment.

The case is Schulze v. Apple, Inc., 20CV369611, California Superior Court, Santa Clara County (San Jose).

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