Analysis By Pramod Kumar Tripathi

In spite of a stern and strict legislation aimed towards the protection of women to restrain susceptible and deteriorating work conditions, cases related to violence against women, infuriating the diffidence, and sexual harassment are escalating with each passing day. Businesses and non-profit organisations must be aware of the potential liabilities for sexual harassment and a whitepaper on sexual harassment could aid employee awareness against improper conduct. Cases of sexual harassment are lodged owing to two multiplicities. One is “quid pro quo” or a “trade‑off.” The act committed by someone who can construct or efficiently influence service actions by sacking, downgrading, rejection of promotion, etc. Such a type of harassment is frequently committed by a supervisor, manager, or someone else who wields more power than the victim. The second is a “hostile environment,” resulting from an unwelcome mannerism of supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors, or anyone else with whom a victimized employee works with. Certain things that can escalate to be a hostile environment include discussing sexual activities, telling off-colour jokes, unnecessary touching, commenting on physical attributes, displaying sexually suggestive pictures, and, granting favours to those who participate in consensual sexual activities.

 

Even though Mala was quick to recall seeing Aasman at her wedding, he did not indicate seeing her before. While he was unhappy sharing the cubicle with Mala, he did not articulate his displeasure with Mahindra, the HR Manager. Also, Aasman used to go to the cafeteria during the lunch hours with Mala on her behest alone. Mala nudging Aasman with a pen while he was leaving the cubicle with Anita is neither a good sign nor is it acceptable in corporate houses. When Mala slipped owing to the cafeteria floor being wet, Aasman’s effort in holding her from falling was a sheer act of impulse of protecting a colleague from harm’s way, and, bore no ill-intent.

 

Further, Aasman was also uneasy with frequent interventions by Mala while working. And, the fact that Mala had sufficient time to surf the internet during work hours, periodic visits to the water cooler station, the ladies room, or the discussion areas to idle her time, that her immediate boss Seeta had no time for her, and also the fact that she seemed to lack confidence and was always consulting Aasman on work-related issues, proves beyond anything that the management has zero focus on her, and, is making no efforts to try and indulge her into the main frame of the business matrix. If the management had suitably engaged Mala, she would be left with no time to idle. Further, her gesture of placing her hand on Aasman’s shoulder while addressing a question is indicative of immature behaviour. Mala would also ask Aasman’s opinion about her attire and used his personal belongings without any inhibition.  

 

The advice given by the members of the Internal Committee to resign rather than face a lengthy investigation is also questionable. Accusing Aasman of groping her in their cubicle and levelling various improper acts allegedly committed by him, Mala had drafted her complaint during the midnight hour and sent the same to Mahindra. The fact that Mahindra immediately acknowledged the mail and replied back to her assuring justice smells like some sort of a conspiracy against Aasman, and, also suggests that Mala is probably being instigated by someone. Mahindra’s written appreciation to Mala on her drafting and the usage of legal terminology creates sufficient room for suspicion, while at the same time, indicates Mahindra’s role in the entire episode. In case Aasman does not heed to the committee’s advice of handing over his resignation, he will be forced to face a detailed inquiry, wait for the committee’s final report, and, implore his future prospects accordingly.

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