Companies have started worrying due to the MeToo movement as they may not have been diligent enough in their investigations against the sexual harassment complaints. Hence the companies are reopening the old cases in order to check the same.
The companies those who haven’t taken any allegations in a serious manner and have buried the complaints in order to keep the reputation of the company are the most concerned one’s.
One of the cases being reopened is said to be that of the multinational bank’s CFO who got a clean chit from the internal complaints committee in the year 2013. The bank is now taking another look at the allegations made by a former employee.
According to a letter written by the employee, it is said that the Chief Financial Officer used to harass her and other nine employees in the department. The bank even decided to get the lawyers and the forensic investigators for looking into the issue.
“We are now interviewing all women in the department, and are required to opine on whether the CFO’s conduct could be tantamount to sexual harassment,” said a senior lawyer with direct knowledge of the matter.
India’s #MeToo campaign that has sparked by the famous actress Tanushree Dutta which has accused the actor Nana Patekar of harassing her. This has in turn encouraged the others in the media and entertainment industry thereby bringing to light decades of this behaviour escalating to rape.
In one of the top companies in Mumbai, a woman employee had registered complaint against harassment wherein no action was taken against. “What we discovered however is that at least 10 such complaints were filed at different points in time by women against the senior executive,” said a person advising the company. “It appears the company wants a neutral opinion on this case as they fear that the ongoing campaign could mean this case comes back to bite them.”
People even said that apart from the multinational companies those are looking to scrutinize the ongoing cases and the past complaints against the head executives even include companies in hospitality, advertising and infrastructure. The forensic investigators are also looking for the allegations where the lawyers are asked for determining the sexual harassment that has taken place. The banks and the companies even want the forensic investors to check if at they have missed anything and the lawyers for telling them on how to react if some of the survivors were about to tweet about these instances.
The senior executives of the companies have already settled the allegations thereby entering into the various contracts and agreements with the complaints. People even say that no legal opinion or action was taken.
“As per the law, there cannot be any contract or agreement that can be made to keep a survivor quiet, and she can come out at any point of time,” said Zulfiquar Memon, managing partner of law firm MZM Legal, who is advising several companies and banks on the issue. “Many companies want to revisit the cases so that they can scrutinise the situation closer and take preemptive action.”
What is Role of Internal Complaints Committee?
According to the investigation, it is understood that the sexual harassment committees are risk hostile and even told the employees those who have raised their voices against the harrasees to “adjust with the situation” thereby protecting the harassers. The rules even dictate that the internal complaint committees are needed to understand and evaluate thereby taking action against the sexual harassment that has occured.
“In many of the cases, there is a need for establishing the question of facts and question of law, wherein both forensic auditors and lawyers are roped in respectively,” said Kartik Radia, head, business advisory services, BDO India.
“For establishing the question of facts, forensic auditors are roped in to investigate and independently report on facts and for establishing the question of law. Lawyers are engaged to ascertain whether it is the case of harassment / sexual harassment, in the light of the facts that are established.” The campaign could also shine a light on the role of senior managers those have protected the harassers or didn’t do enough to ensure a safe workplace.
“The promoters now fear that if the employee or anyone related to her were to merely tweet about this, it could cause a lot of trouble,” said a New Delhi-based lawyer advising the company. The law firm is preparing the company’s defence in the event of such an occurrence.
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