Companies get tougher on harassment at work

  • Himani Chandna, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 20, 2016 13:54 IST
As per data by the National Commission of Women (NCW), 336 complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace were registered in 2014.

“We have made 3G history. Not our values. Don’t let an apology cover-up sexual harassment,” reads a poster at telecom firm MTS India’s Gurgaon office.

Aveek Anand (name changed), a young employee in MTS India, passed inappropriate gestures to a female vendor. He never knew, approaching a vendor who is neither an office colleague nor on the company’s payroll would amount to sexual harassment.

“We verified the complaint submitted by our vendor partner with our employee and he confessed. He said he never knew that what he was doing is a form of sexual harassment,” described Tarun Katyal, chief human resource officer at MTS India, which has registered at least three sexual harassment cases recently where employees were unaware that their gestures are part of sexual harassment policy at the workplace.

Companies such as Adidas, Domino’s Pizza, BookMyShow (BMS), Dunkin’ Donuts, IBM, Coca Cola and Aviva Life Insurance, are also now deciphering sexual harassment policies, and are taking initiatives such as organising discussion about real-life case studies, circulating animated list of do’s and dont’s, pasting slogan-based posters in office premises, and conducting e-learning classes for employees, among other things.

As per data by the National Commission of Women (NCW), 336 complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace were registered in 2014 with the NCW. There were 249 such cases registered in 2013, 167 in 2012 and 170 in 2011. The Commission is yet to announce figures for 2015.

“Idea is to bring the content out of the theory. The trainer throws light on real-life situations, which gives the employee a better understanding of intricate and delicate aspects surrounding the subject,” said the spokesperson at BMS, where employees are segregated in batches for the workshop of approximately 2.5 hours.

“Employees did not know that ‘stalking’ is now considered a crime under Indian Penal Code (IPC), and could land one in jail. We are trying to de-code the legalities attached with sexual harassment complaints in the workshops to introduce fear among culprits and encourage victims to raise the voice,” said Katyal, who sends quarterly reports to all employees on what actions have been taken against the complaints registered, while maintaining confidentiality over the name of the parties involved.

Sportswear giant Adidas India also conducts workshops on real-life case studies.

“Employees discuss the nuances of the case-studies such as how one would have acted immediately, how to document the incident, the victim’s response, eyewitnesses, reporting on the behaviour, among other aspects,” said Arijit Sengupta, senior HR director, Adidas Group India.

Jubilant FoodWorks, operator of Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s Pizza in India, has started communicating its anti-harassment policy through an e-learning, animated module.

“We have also worked with a leading diversity firm to deliver interactive classroom sessions to further explain the concept , implications and redressal mechanism,” said Biplob Banerjee, executive vice-president, human resource, Jubilant FoodWorks Ltd.

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