Ethics, safety and compliance are three aspects that should never be compromised in an organisation at any cost. The case at hand currently deals with two such aspects – ethics and safety. Nimit’s casual approach towards the POSH committee is a matter of deep concern. While it is great to have a family like culture within an organisation, compromising the seriousness of the POSH committee is non-negotiable, as this is a mandatory regulation stipulated by law. Besides, creation and communication of the Internal Complaints Committee within the organisation also gives people, especially women employees, the confidence that the organisation respects and protects their personal space and dignity. To start with, Nimit needs to immediately appoint an external lawyer or hire the services of an NGO and bring the POSH Committee into effect. The GM-HR can be the Presiding officer, who could take a few days off from her education programme in Ahmedabad. Even though she is the wife of Mr. Singh, the defendant, she is duty‑bound to assume the role and act in a fair manner during the trial, since she is the senior lady officer in the organisation. For the committee to function, there must be at least two employees apart from the presiding officer and the external consultant. At least, half the committee members must be women. Having other neutral members on-board shall also ensure that decisions taken by the committee are not biased. Nimit himself should also be a part of the POSH Committee, and assume charge and lead from the front.
Once the committee is in effect, a thorough investigation should be initiated and all the relevant witnesses and evidences related to this case must be made available. The POSH committee should initially speak to Neha Jani and win her confidence, so that she can take this up formally through a written complaint (with evidence if any) to the POSH Committee. Once the written complaint is received, the committee should start its enquiry on the case by meeting all the necessary people who could throw light on the matter, and submit the complaint to the defendant. Mr. Singh, the defendant, should be made to send his response in writing mentioning his view/position on the accusations levelled. Since, Nimit and Singh’s wife are both on the panel of the POSH Committee, and are closely related to the defendant in this case, they should advise him to be honest, and admit if there has been a mistake and mention everything in writing in his response. In case Neha wishes, she can take this up with the police and press criminal charges against him, which is bound to have dire consequences.
It is the duty of the POSH Committee to give a fair hearing to Mr. Singh and operate completely on the basis of facts and evidences. It is important that the POSH Committee meets everyone individually and maintains complete confidentiality in the process of enquiry. Mrs. Singh, the Presiding Officer, will have to play the most important role in such a case. If no evidence is found, the committee can decide that the case does not qualify under POSH and communicate the same to Neha. However, if Mr. Singh is found guilty, the committee is required to act against him, including termination and communicate the same to Neha. Additionally, if Neha is found to be maligning the dignity of Mr. Singh, the committee must take strict action against Neha. While Nimit should lead the enquiry under POSH and arrive at a fair conclusion, he also needs to look at some of the key underlying challenges of gender mix and high attrition among the low female population in his organisation. It is crucial that he look for a long-term solution by creating a women friendly workplace, designing processes and policies that attract and promote women population and give them a good career path. Hiring young women graduates, in the manner in which Nimit has been doing, is a great way to bring in talent diversity that also stays longer with the organisation. He could also look at employing the wives of the labourers by training them with the required skillsets. This could help address the gender-mix issue and make the workers more responsible. Furthermore, he must also have CCTVs installed across the office premises and ensure there is enough communication among people about their safety and rights. A circular communicating the ICC members and constitution of POSH should be put up across the office at multiple places like break-out areas, cafeteria etc. for people to read and so that they are provided with the confidence that the workplace is indeed safe.
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