A labour court has admitted an appeal by an infotech (IT) employee on a sexual harassment complaint, a first from an IT industry to reach the court. The Kancheepuram labour court admitted an appeal by an employee from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) against the ruling of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) on a sexual harassment complaint filed against her manager. The incident allegedly happened in the United Kingdom where the employee and her immediate supervisor were on deputation.
The victim has accused the ICC of TCS of being biased in spite of the tremendous mental and physical stress she had to face in UK as well as after returning to Chennai, leaving her with no option but to approach the labour court.
The TCS website claims to have 36.1% women employees in a workforce of 436,641 in 149 countries, including its subsidiaries.
‘Harassed in Workplace by the Manager’
In her complaint, the woman employee has alleged that the manager had demanded sexual favours by summoning her to a room and detaining her from 7 p.m to 11 p.m. He was trying to take advantage of situation in the name of the annual appraisal, she has alleged.
Sharing her “traumatic experience” with NewsClick, the woman said she was yet to recover from the “terrible experience of being bullied” by her superior and members of the ICC. “The manager called me for an appraisal discussion to his room. By that time, we had enough information of when the assignment comes to an end in the UK. He continued the discussion even though I was mailed of the appraisal process by the HR officials. When I asked him about his involvement in the appraisal process, he claimed he needed to finish the process and submit it to the HR department. I was very tired and wanted a break before 10 p.m to finish dinner, since the restaurants would have closed down by then”, she said.
Since the meeting was unplanned, her mobile ran out of charge and got switched off. She alleged that realising this, the “inebriated manager tried to molest her which ended in a confrontation”, adding that unable to bear the trauma, she resigned from TCS after meeting HR officials in the UK itself.
‘No Moral and Financial Support Extended’
“I almost fainted after the whole episode. All I could remember is couple of people giving me water to drink by 12.30 a.m. I was totally depressed since I could not contact anyone, including my parents. I reported everything to a senior official but didn’t get any reply. Fearing damage to my career, I could not disclose about the manager trying to take sexual favours. I copied the resignation mail to all my former supervisors, as I have been a consistent performer since joining TCS. The only thing I had in mind was to reach India safely first, as I was feeling like a refugee there”, she alleged.
She claimed that the company’s HR officials in the UK had admitted to such an incident taking place.
She said she felt “devastated” in a foreign country without any moral support from TCS, the company to which she had devoted her service for more than half a decade. She also claimed that she was not paid for hospital and transportation expenses.
After reaching Chennai, the employee said she was persuaded to stay back in TCS and was shifted to another vertical. Subsequently, she was offered a promotion in the new vertical too. She claimed that the manager continued to psychologically harass her, forcing her to think of resigning again. But, on insistence from her colleagues, she decided to register a complaint with ICC.
ICC ‘Acted Biased’
The employee alleged that an ICC member “managed to influence the external committee member and tried to threaten her of consequences for damaging the image of TCS”. She further alleged that the proofs submitted by her were “damaged” by this ICC member. The victim claimed that in spite of performing well under stress and humiliation at workplace, she never received any support from the TCS management.
In her complaint, the employee has also alleged being subjected to further harassment by some senior TCS officials. The Visakha panel guidelines were not followed and the ICC made public the name of the complainant and the details of sexual harassment faced by the victim, she alleged, adding that all these actions by the TCS management amount to violation of Visakha norms in a sexual harassment issue.
UNITE Welcomes Labour Court Decision
The Union of IT and ITES Employees (UNITE) has welcomed the Labour Court’s decision to admit the appeal against the arbitrary decision of the company’s ICC. The union has also demanded that the present ICC be dismantled and a fresh committee be set up as per the norms laid out by the Vishaka Guidelines on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The general secretary of UNITE, Alagunambi Welkin, told NewsClick, “The ICC of TCS has not conducted a fair enquiry into the complaint of the victim. The TCS should support the court proceedings with the principle of fairness and justice. Also, TCS should refrain from taking punitive action and harassment of all forms against the complainant”.
“We demand that all the IT companies should practice zero tolerance against sexual harassment or misconduct and ensure swift measures to curb the menace in workplace. The government of Tamil Nadu should form a committee to monitor the functioning of ICC in all IT companies”, he added.
*Despite repeated attempts, Newsclick journalist did not get any response from the TCS. The story will be updated as soon as their response is received.