Bangalore: In a landmark case, a US-based IT firm has been asked to compensate a techie employed at its C V Raman Nagar office in Bengaluru for illegally terminating her services without providing valid reasons and for causing harassment. The labour department, which heard the case, has directed the company to shell out Rs 12.5 lakh. The 27-year-old techie, a native of Delhi, had challenged the decision of the company by first approaching the state women’s commission and then the labour department.
This is the first case since Karnataka government’s notification to the IT sector making it mandatory for companies to report each pink slip to the labour department and the reasons for doing so too. Bangalore Mirror had been the first to report the development in its front page titled ‘Honeymoon is over for the IT sector’ (March 26, 2014).
Sheela K (name changed) was recruited as a technical system analyst with the company on July 16, 2012. Her job was confirmed after a three-month probationary period. According to the details of the case, the company even ranked Sheela’s performance a cut above the rest. On May 8, 2013, she got a salary hike of eight per cent, while the rest of the employees got a five per cent hike. In addition, she was handed out a bonus of Rs 56,694. In recognition of her exceptional performance, her bosses from the US sent her an appreciation letter stating: ‘I appreciate your ongoing contribution and I am pleased to have you as member of our ……team, Congratulations.”
However, things soured soon after. She alleges her manager in the US started harassing her without any reason. A month into being feted, Sheela says on April 15, 2013, her manager instructed her to go through the performance improvement plan. Usually, techies are asked to through a performance improvement plan if they are not ‘doing well’ in an assigned project.
Shocked by the move, Sheela approached various officials in the company to find out the reason for the rap after being given a bigger hike than her colleagues as well as a certificate of appreciation, but was met with a wall of silence. When she insisted on getting to the bottom of the issue, she says the HR manager asked her to keep mum.
Sheela then shot off a mail to all the top bosses in the company, but none came up with a convincing answer. Instead, she found the scales tilted in favour of her manager.
The final blow came on October 29, 2013, when the HR manager told Sheela the company had terminated her from service. Sheela was ordered to pack up immediately and leave; when she resisted the decision, the HR manager called the security guards and got her ousted. She was not even allowed to take her belongings. Outraged over this final humiliation, Sheela filed a case against her managers at HAL police station. The police then filed an FIR against the managers of the company, under Sec 511, 506,509,504 and 323 of the IPC. She subsequently got her belongings back, but only after two police constables from the HAL police station accompanied her to the office.
Determined to get justice, Sheela then sent a legal notice seeking a clarification on the illegal termination and asking for the decision to be revoked, but her appeals were turned down by the company. This decision jeopardized her career, ultimately taking a toll on her health. As a result of the mental agony she suffered during this tumultuous period, she had to undergo treatment at various hospitals and clinics.
As a last resort, Sheela decided to knock on the doors of the women’s commission in the state. After going through the details of her complaint, the commission decided to recommend the case to the labour department for initiating action. After hearing both parties, the labour department decided Sheela should be awarded compensation for unfair treatment and termination from service.
“The department heard the case between July 14 and September 15. Close to 15 hearings were held, and the matter has been resolved within three months of the complaint being filed with the Women’s Commission. Initially, the company refused to give in to any of the demands, but finally agreed to hand out compensation,” said a source. Sheela sought compensation on various grounds, including compensation for termination of service without providing valid reasons, which included her salary and benefits due to her.
She had sought work experience certificate till August 2014 as she was jobless for close to a year. She had also sought Rs 4 lakh for mental torture, cost of hiring an advocate, besides six months’ gross salary, cost of medical treatment that amounted to nearly Rs 1 lakh. The total compensation sought was Rs 12.50 lakh. The company agreed to give Rs 10.55 lakh. Following the department’s decision, both parties have agreed to withdraw cases against each other.
Additional labour commissioner, J T Jinkalappa, said, “The matter had been brought to us. We convened a meeting of both the parties.
The company has agreed to pay compensation after deducting taxes and both of them agreed to withdraw the case after the compensation was fixed. However, the girl is yet to claim the compensation amount.”
The company has given the cheque to the labour department. However, it now seems that the techie is not happy with the compensation, and hence may not have picked up her cheque. Commenting on the case, chairperson of Karnataka State Women’s Commission, Manjula Manasa, said Sheela had approached them after the company sacked her.
“The department, after several rounds of hearing, awarded compensation to the techie. But, now I hear, she is not happy with the compensation.”