Demotivated, appalled and infuriated are a few of the emotions which I had gone through during my stint in Landis+gyr. I have been an HR professional for 13 years now. And I have always believed that the HR team lead by the HR head is a custodian of the company’s ethics and values. But my belief was completely shaken while I was working with Fathima Farouk, Head HR Landis+Gyr.
For those of you, who do not know, Landis+Gyr is a multinational corporation that deals in smart metering products and energy management solutions, operating from 45 offices spread across 30 countries, with its headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. Recently they have partnered with Tata Power (TPDDL) to launch smart meters in the North of India.
I had been with Landis+Gyr HR department for six months when I realized that there was something very wrong with the Indian HR team. There were certain individuals who were extremely callous and abusive in nature and they would display this behavior openly towards their team members and no one would question them.
As an HR professional and a lady, I thought the HR head would be able to empathise with a harassed and abused employee. Moreover, it is the company’s HR head’s responsibility to ensure that all the issues are sorted out conscientiously. But, Fathima had a different set of rules and regulations for different employees and later it came out that she had a strong backing from the CEO, Sandip Mukherjee who also did not care about ethics and COC (code of conduct).
Prior to my joining, a girl (not disclosing her identity for obvious reasons) had been dismissed from Landis in 2015. Nothing new in that, but then I realized that she had taken Landis+Gyr and Genius Consultants, the third party vendor through whom she came, to labour court for unfair termination and won the case. On further investigation, I realized that there was more to the story.
The young girl, who was an employee in the HR team, had reported about sexual harassment by the IT Head, Mohammed Ranapurwala to Fathima Farouk (the HR head). However, Fathima traded in with the victim and promised to give her maternity benefits equivalent to an on-rolls employee if she stayed quiet. Since the girl was worried about her career and was pregnant, she agreed. But, once the matter had settled down, Fathima terminated the girl’s contract in the 9th month of her pregnancy. Even worse, the lady wasn’t allowed into the premises and stopped by the guards on her last day upon the order of the HR head and treated inhumanly. She was handed her relieving letter in the reception itself and her belongings are still in some of the drawers in the HR department. The girl who was shocked by this incident, even went to commit suicide however God wanted her to be alive and so sent a friend on time to rescue. Her child still has issues due to the unwanted stress she went through in pregnancy.
The conversation between Ranapurwala and the girl:
Girl’s email to the company:
Similarly, an IT Manager also underwent abusive behaviour at the hands of the IT Head, Ranapurwala. However, when he reported this to Fatima, instead of helping him, she went and reported the complaint to RP. The IT manager, whose probation was not confirmed, was asked to leave. He even tried approaching the CEO, his skip level manager to report this abusive behaviour and lack of support from HR, however, the CEO refused to listen to his grievance.
IT manager’s email to the company:
A whistle-blowing email was sent to the Global Management team stating all these facts and the company started an investigation and narrowed down the whistleblowers to a couple of people (One of them was me) within the company. Though she couldn’t find any irrefutable proof against me, the HR Head’s behaviour became very unpleasant to me. Her behaviour bordered on threat and criminal intimidation. Job loss threat and publicly accusing me of deceit became common vein in her conversation. Finally, the day I was let go from the job, she resorted to my wrongful confinement in a guarded room. When confronted she said that she has full authority from Sandip Mukherjee, India CEO, Anne Carr, VP- HR, Asia Pacific and Global Management.
Anne Carr, VP-HR who was also a part of the investigation team and had promised me immunity, threatened me that “only those people who support Fathima can stay in the team as I and the organisation are in complete support of her!!” What do you do when your manager and manager’s manager want to show you the door because you spoke the truth under the promise of immunity by the global compliance team.
I was wrongly served a First and Final warning for 1 joining out of 254 employees that joined in my tenure and the next day itself I was terminated giving wrong reasons of breach of confidentiality and privacy and was told by Fathima Farouk that the decision has come from global compliance. No show cause notice, no hearing, I was confined in a room and was bullied!
All this, because I brought to the company’s notice the prevailing sexual harassment and abusive behaviour of certain employees.
I have approached the National Commission for women, National Human Rights Commission as well as the Prime Minister’s office with my grievance.
It has been over nine months now that I am fighting for justice. And it has been a lone battle all this while. I have received threat calls at 1:00 in the morning. I have been rebuked by my own people telling me that it is of no use. “Take back your complaint”, they say. “These things happen all the time,” I shouldn’t have got involved in somebody else’s mess, they say. But my conscience tells me to keep fighting for justice.
Is it wrong to stand up for ethics, stand up for wrong happening in society, stand up for what you think is right? And more than anything else, stand up for another woman who was deprived the right of a peaceful maternity?
Posted by Diana Sequeira.
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