Article (November-2019)


Management should not have overreacted

Dr. Aditi Kaushal

Designation : -   Independent Lawyer specially in POSH matters, (Phd in law on Socio legal impact of sexual harassment of women at workplace),

Organization : -  KLA Management Consultants Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon


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1- Eventually, the concept of inclusion and diversity has limit down to the sexual harassment of women at workplace. For compliances, the managements are circulating the policies on the floor but the same is mere paper work for compliances. The actual scope of its implementation and awareness is what makes the environment conducive and much more civilized. It cannot be denied that the company was in the right direction in enforcing sexual harassment policy but the policy limited its scope only for one gender. It further in practice knowingly- unknowingly infringed the rights of other gender was a real time concern. The law is based on the principle of equity, which means equality for all without any gender discrimination. Hence, as company the policy should be for all rather than limiting its scope for one sect in the organisation.

2- "Fear" is an ideology, which either makes one focussed or over reactive. An organisation can only be progressive following a balance approach in every aspect whether education, caution, precaution, sensitization, awareness etc.  In the current case there was at one stage too much heavy emphasis on education, caution, precaution, sensitization etc but only in regard to female employees. As a result, it developed hostility within male employees which could be easily established from the fact that in a short span there were three cases of which all the three male members without opportunity were sacked by the management. One needs to understand that, engaging females as employees in India is not a new concept rather a much-hyped concept. Going by history, we initially had organisations which already had a huge labour force of females but the same never turned out to be a reason to caution. Today, the emphasis and reluctance in engaging female workforce reflects the ideology of an organisation. We ourselves have made it a taboo and like Writemore, many organisations end up with the said crises.

3- In Indian laws, principle of natural justice has played a very pivotal role especially in matters referred under employment and service laws. In current scenario, the reaction of Prayag should be taken in the way that he was not left with any option. He had already been defamed by the circulation and disclosure of the contents of complaint by the complainant through WhatsApp. Add ons to his prey was when, Nivedita counselled and persuaded him to put up his papers in presence of the other junior HR officers, without even giving him an option of listening his side. Even the reaction of Mr. Chibber was not rationale. The question as per the facts on record that "how Prayag should have handled the matter? Never persisted as the actions cum reactions of the management were self-sufficient for Prayag to take such a big step.

4- The management in an organisation needs to be supportive rather then conclusive. Every coin has two sides but the same can only be explored if the coin is turned. Both Nivedita and Chibber, never from their actions reflected the intent to enquire the real facts by giving options. At least for Prayag, their opinion unfortunately was one sided and they themselves worked on separation considering the fact this was fourth complaint of such sort. Nivedita did wished to conduct an enquiry but her approach and opted mechanisms for fair enquiry, counselling and persuasion was not proper. She did need to be over sensitive and clear while dealing in such matters of complainant without any hindrances and biasness.

5- Chibber being the COO, a representative of the company or in other words Disciplinary Authority under the said enactment should have :-

a. Evaluated the complaint and re-check whether the matter is a prima facie case of sexual harassment at workplace.

b. Forwarded the complaint to respective Internal committee for just and fair trial without any biasness.

c. While enquiry should have been the facilitator, ensuring that both complainant and Prayag's interest were safeguarded.

d. Would have taken action on the concerns who breached confidentiality by disclosure of the contents on whatsapp and involved in rumour mongering resulting into hostile working environment.

e. Counselled Prayag if indeed after the above steps followed.

f. Since it was the fourth case in the organisation, would have enquired the real cause of the trouble and uneasiness at workplace.

g. On the completion of enquiry, appropriate steps/mechanisms believing in zero tolerance of wrongful behaviour without any gender biasness can be taken.

h. Would conduct further trainings and awareness sessions on POSH.