Tata Sons Ltd employees who were deployed from India to work in information technology jobs in the United States won the right on Monday to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the Indian corporate giant over unpaid wages.

California federal judge Claudia Wilken granted class-action status to the suit that accuses Mumbai-based Tata and its subsidiary, Tata Consultancy Services, of breaching employee contracts and violating California labor laws.

Two former employees accused the company in 2006 of forcing all non-US-citizen workers to sign over their US federal and state tax refund checks to the company. Tata also deducted their Indian wages from their compensation, the suit alleged.

The judge authorized one national class of plaintiffs, comprised of non-US citizens who worked at the company between 2002 and 2005, to sue for contract violations. The court certified a separate class of employees to bring claims under California labor laws.

"More than 10,000 current and former Indian nationals working for Tata in America now may have their day in court," Kelly Dermody, a lead attorney for the employees, said in a statement.

Robert Steiner, a lawyer for Tata America International Corporation with Kelley Drye & Warren, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Tata Sons Ltd is the holding company for salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group, India's biggest corporate house.

The case is Vedachalam v. Tata America International Corporation et al, US District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland), No. 06-963.

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