The California state government on Tuesday said that it has filed a lawsuit against tech conglomerate Cisco Systems for allegedly discriminating against and harassing an Indian-American employee because of his caste.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing did not name the employee in its lawsuit but said that he has been a principal engineer at Cisco’s headquarters in San Jose since 2015. The department added that the employee belonged to a Dalit family.

The lawsuit accused former Cisco managers Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella of enforcing caste-based hierarchy within the organisation, according to Reuters. It also alleged that the firm rejected the employee’s raise and denied him promotion twice.

The state government said in a statement that the employee was deprived of other opportunities at the workplace because of his caste. “The complainant was expected to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace where he held the lowest status within a team of higher-caste colleagues, receiving less pay, fewer opportunities, and other inferior terms and conditions of employment because of his religion, ancestry, national origin/ethnicity, and race/colour,” the government said.

Department of Fair Employment and Housing Director Kevin Kish said that it was unacceptable for career opportunities “to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth”.

Cisco spokesperson Robyn Blum said that the organisation will “vigorously defend itself” against the lawsuit. “Cisco is committed to an inclusive workplace for all,” she was quoted as saying by Reuters. “We were fully in compliance with all laws as well as our own policies.”