11.10.’15 – London, tech giant Wipro was slapped with a sexual harassment claim for 10 crores, by a former employee alleging sexual harassment, unfair dismissal, gender discrimination and unequal pay. The dismissal of the Indian born British citizen and her manager was decided by an internal company inquiry, where it was established beyond a reasonable doubt that the pair had violated the company’s code of conduct. After dismissal the former employee filed a compensation claim with the Central London Employment Tribunal. Reports state that she found her work environment toxic, calling it “deeply predatory, misogynistic culture“. She has also claimed she was paid lesser than her male counterparts.
The case points to the prevalent problem of gender pay gap faced by women across the globe. It has come in the wake of the government’s initiative or drive to eradicate gender pay gap.
A British employee has the option to file a claim with the Employment Tribunal which handles all employment related cases including sexual harassment. The Employment Tribunal has the power or is in a position to award damages where deemed justified; this systematic approach to employment issues especially sexual harassment problems is in stark contrast to how sexual harassment is dealt with in India. UK law recognizes exemplary damages meaning that the courts may award high compensation, £1 million in this instance when sexual harassment is filed and proved. In comparison, Indian law or courts grant damages only for exceptional circumstances.
This case in India would have seen a very different outcome. In India, sexual harassment cases are now governed primarily by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act,(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) 2013, which mandates that an organization employing more than 10 people is required to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). This ICC is to operate as a quasi-judicial body within the confines of a company handling and adhering to complaints put forth by female employees. An Indian employee has to submit a compliant first to the ICC; based on the findings and recommendations of its internal inquiry an employee may seek further legal aid or action if warranted. Unfortunately, there have been several documented cases reported in mainstream media where the recommendations of the ICC have been not been implemented properly, and in some instances not at all. In the event of the ineffectiveness or non – implementation of the ICC recommendations, an employee’s next option would be to move to court under the IPC (sec 354 A) and trudge through litigation, case in point the Pachuri case, where the employee sought legal action in the Delhi High Court.
The other problem with the ICC, glaringly so, is that committee members may not be properly equipped to handle cases effectively. These are sadly, the ground realities faced by Indian companies, despite the law mandate that one of the committee members of the ICC requires to have prior experience with sexual harassment. Companies may not be entirely equipped to deal with certain procedural aspects of the workings of the ICC. Companies must also note that the absence of ICC in an organization will lead to legal implications.
The law of sexual harassment at the work place is unexplored in India given how recent the introduction of these legislations are to establishments. Awareness amongst employees has resulted in a surge of cases being reported; especially in the IT and banking sector. Encouraging a gender sensitive workforce would be behemoth task for any organization, considering the social structures of the Indian society.
More women need to be in leadership positions at workplaces which may additionally help in dealing with and preventing sexual harassment along with a system that can effectively handle cases. It is only a matter of time where, India like the UK would consider including sexual harassment cases in the ambit of the Industrial and Labour Courts.
Please visit our page regarding laws related to female employees. http://www.asklabourproblem.info/sexual-harassment-and-labour-laws-in-india-the-vishaka-perspective/