Uber has taken a proactive step in dealing with sexual harassment allegations. According to a news report, Travis Kalanick has asked Uber’s Senior Vice President of Engineering division – Amit Singhal to resign as the latter failed to disclose that he left Google because of a sexual harassment allegations. Apparently, Google insider found the complaints against Singhal ‘credible’. Singhal had joined Uber in January 2017. This is one of the very few instances (or probably the first) where a company has voluntarily asked a Senior Executive to resign for a past allegation in a different company. And this can be a beginning of a new chapter in which companies handle offenders.
People Matters is awaiting response from Uber spokesperson on the issue.
This has come at a time when Uber which is already facing a lot of flak for being a ‘sexist’ organizations as alleged by a former Uber female employee who wrote on her blog about various incidents of sexism at Uber, and also put the HR department under scrutiny. Travis has been personally looking into the matter, as reported by the media.
Singhal was heading search technology at Alphabet Inc.’s Google. He left in 2016 after 15 years with the company. However, Singhal rubbished allegations and said he left Google a year ago for his own reasons. “Harassment is unacceptable in any setting,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior. In my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before, and the decision to leave Google was my own.” he said in a press statement.
In India, every corporate needs to set up Sexual Harassment committee to tackle such allegations. It has been mandated by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013 which is an extension of the earlier Vishakha Guidelines. Corporates having 10 or more employees need to set up a committee at each location, so that women can feel comfortable to come forward and make a complaint to local members of the Committee. The committee members are legally obligated to help the woman make the complaint in writing, in case, she is unable to do so for any reason.
One of India’s best known software executives Phaneesh Murthy had to resign from Infosys in 2002 after his secretary Reka Maximovitch accused him of sexual harassment. Infosys settled for $3 million outside court. Murthy was also sacked by an American IT firm – iGATE Corporation in 2013 on sexual harassment charges.
In 2015, Shreya Ukil, an India-born British citizen, accused Wipro of sex discrimination, unequal pay, harassment and unfair dismissal, and sought compensation of up to £1 million, according to a claim at the central London employment tribunal. Ukil had said that she was manipulated into an affair with married SVP Manoj Punja, the former head of Wipro BPO who had earlier resigned.
According to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, Indian corporates need to disclose the data about the cases filed each year. Last year, among the top 50 Nifty companies, two-thirds of them disclosed a more than 500 complaints. As reported by a publication, Wipro topped the list with 111 cases, followed by ICICI Bank with 87, and Infosys with 62. This sudden increase in reporting can be attributed to the robust legal system put in place to curb such harassments.
While many companies are making ‘Diversity’ the buzzword this year, trying to include more women at the leadership level, the issue of gender biased, sexual harassment is something that will keep the corporates on their toes. Companies like Authbridge, AMSInform provide services like due diligence, risk mitigation and background verification for corporates. With Background verification gaining momentum with each passing day, and for obvious reasons, employees, irrespective of gender need to be aware of their behaviour at work.