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Sexual harassment: Taj employee quit after allegation against top official, cited inaction

A ‘demotion’ and career insecurity that followed an allegation of sexual harassment by a senior female employee of Indian Hotels against a top executive forced her to quit. The employee had discussed this with Cyrus Mistry, then chairman of Tata Sons, and the then Group HR Head NS Rajan, led to the setting up of […]

Written by Sandeep Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: November 11, 2016 2:19:48 pm

A ‘demotion’ and career insecurity that followed an allegation of sexual harassment by a senior female employee of Indian Hotels against a top executive forced her to quit.

The employee had discussed this with Cyrus Mistry, then chairman of Tata Sons, and the then Group HR Head NS Rajan, led to the setting up of a committee, but even after 18 months, the committee is yet to submit a report.

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In her November 3, 2015 email addressed to Mistry where the employee offered to quit, she said, “I am writing to inform you that I have chosen not to take up the Tata Sons role and will be moving on from the Tata Group….. During my seven month employment at Taj I was subjected to repeated unwanted sexual advances from the top executive. When I ignored or tried to rebuff them the environment would become hostile.”

She further goes on to say that when she spoke about the issue with Mistry and NS Rajan among others, the two decided to very quickly move her back to Tata Sons for a six-month stint. “The role does not have any clear workflow or responsibilities, my title has been changed from general manager to senior manager, and I am not convinced this position will be at the same level as what I had at Taj,” she stated.

Responding to an email sent to Cyrus Mistry by The Indian Express, his spokesperson said, “As an immediate action, with her concurrence, Mr Mistry initiated an interim measure of providing an appropriate short-term alternate and safe work environment until the matter could be investigated and appropriately addressed….. An interim senior role, directly reporting to a group executive Council member in the Corporate Communications team was identified. Despite Tata Sons and IHCL having different grades and designation structures, care was taken to ensure that her current emoluments were protected. Despite several attempts to retain her, she decided not to accept the position and instead wished to pursue a career outside of Tatas.”

While an email sent to Tata Sons did not elicit a response, in response to the email sent to the concerned top IHCL executive, the Taj spokesperson said, “The Company has a strict code of conduct under which an independent committee has been set up to inquire into an issue received from an ex-employee.”

Acknowledging in her mail that when she raised the issue involving the IHCL executive with the top management, Mistry had told her, “In six months time I will be able to put my career back on track,” she went on to say that, “I do not have any tangible proof this will happen and considering this transition was not done in the best interest of my career, I no longer feel my career is secure in the Tata Group.”

Mistry’s spokesperson said that while the employee did approach Mistry and informed him about the unwelcome behaviour by a “senior Indian Hotels Company Ltd employee”, he (Mistry) got “very upset” and had “set aside time to meet with her and assured her that the Tata Group stands fully committed to support her.”

The spokesperson also added, “On Mr Mistry’s instructions, she was informed that this matter was being taken very seriously and a thorough enquiry would be undertaken. To ensure that the necessary actions that may be called for are undertaken, her full involvement and cooperation would be needed. At her request to put the issue behind her, an enquiry was not set up at that point in time.”

The spokesperson added that, “Since this was a serious allegation and potentially a violation of the Tata Code of Conduct, Mr Mistry decided to institute a committee to investigate into the matter. This committee was constituted by a senior independent director of IHCL to ensure that appropriate processes are followed….. The report is awaited and the board of IHCL will decide on next steps on the basis of the Committee’s findings.”

The spokesperson said that following this episode, Mistry, “also instructed a review of the implementation of POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) policy and practices across Tata Group companies.”

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