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Fired IT workers to file discrimination lawsuit

Fired IT workers to file discrimination lawsuit

University's IT employees will allege age and national origin discrimination

The University of California IT workers replaced by an offshore outsourcing firm intend to file a lawsuit challenging their dismissal. The lawsuit may be filed as early as next week.

It will allege that the tech workers at the university's San Francisco campus were victims of age and national origin discrimination.

The IT employees lost their jobs in February after the university hired India-based IT services firm HCL. Approximately 50 full-time university employees lost their jobs, but another 30 contractor positions were cut as well.

Replacing IT workers with offshore labor is common in the private sector, but almost unheard of at a state-supported, public institution.

"To take a workforce that is overwhelmingly over the age of 40 and replace them with folks who are mainly in their 20s -- early 20s, in fact -- we think is age discrimination," said the IT employees' attorney, Randall Strauss, of Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer.

The national origin discrimination claim is the result of taking a workforce "that reflects the diversity of California" and is summarily let go and is "replaced with people who come from one particular part of the world," said Strauss.

The lawsuit will be filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

Only a few civil cases have alleged national origin discrimination in offshore outsourcing, but interest in raising this issue appears to be gaining ground.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently warned employers not to use H-1B visa workers to discriminate, a signal that it may be interested in bringing its own national origin discrimination case.

A case brought by Disney IT workers, filed in December in federal court in Orlando, is making a similar allegation. Approximately 250 IT employees lost their jobs after the company hired offshore outsourcing firms to take over the work. Some workers complained of training H-1B-holding replacements.

The complaint about UCSF's offshore outsourcing took an unexpected twist Wednesday. A California state auditor's report found that the university had failed to disclose some $175 million in funds in its budget. The university had argued that its outsourcing decisions will save it some $50 million over five years.

J. Gary Gwilliam, the lead counsel for the university's IT workers, said, "It is unbelievable to me that a public university would ship good American jobs overseas by telling the fired workers, the Regents, the Legislature and public of a crying need to save money, while at the same time maintaining a secret slush fund of $175 million dollars which would more than cover the cost of keeping all these jobs in California, leaving more than enough money leftover to cover the needs of the University and its students," he said, in a statement.

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