Think local, act global? Or think global, act local?

Stories of employees of call centres and outsourcing companies in Bangalore working on major Indian holidays just so that their company’s commitments to clients are met, makes news every now and then.

Now, Infosys Technologies, which got into a major jam with the Phaneesh Murthy scandal, has got into yet another nice, little row in the United States, with an Indian-born American citizen suing the company for….

For mocking her observance of American holidays like Thanksgiving and refusing to pay her overtime.

In her lawsuit, Promila Awasthi, a Silicon Valley consultant with Infosys’ Fremont (Califoria) office, paints a picture of a culturally insensitive organisation where she had to work in “intolerable” conditions from February to November 2008.

NBC quotes from the lawsuit:

“Infosys management routinely disparaged Americans, including Mrs Awasthi, as not having “family values,” and stated that layoffs in America are good because the jobs will be outsourced.

“Infosys management ridiculed Mrs. Awasthi for celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving, telling her that she should not celebrate Thanksgiving because she is Indian, and that therefore she must work on Thanksgiving Day.

“Infosys management ridiculed Mrs. Awasthi’s children for celebrating Thanksgiving, and called them “ABCD” short for “American-Born Confused Desi,” and “IBCD” short for “Indian-Born Confused Desi,” insulting terms used to criticize people of Indian ancestry who are Americanized.

“Infosys management ridiculed Mrs. Awasthi for celebrating Christmas, saying that “we” do not celebrate Christmas, and that she should not celebrate Christmas. Infosys management repeatedly discussed the quality of Mrs. Awasthi’s work by explicitly commenting on their expectations for “a woman your age.”

Questions: Standard Operating Procedure of transnational companies? Sour grapes of a sacked employee hoping to strike it big?

Is it OK to give a “local” employee a holiday for a “local” festival but deny it to “non-locals”? Should an Indian company in Rome behave like a Roman or like an Indian company, with Indian values and Indian holidays?

Or, in the new age of outsourcing and offshoring and all that, should companies have the luxury of an elastic policy cutting across cultures?

Link via Anamika Krishnan

Also read: Sepia Mutiny: No turkey for you