The wave of sexual harassment reports in recent months lead to the dethroning of men in fields like media, politics, sports, and business. Social media came in support which made it easier for women to speak up. Following the uproar organisations took action against sexual harassment.
The harsh truth is, sexual harassment has been a reality of the corporate world for decades. The #MeToo movement just brought more and more of these cases into the public domain. In fact, women who faced harassment years ago finally came up on social platforms to share their story and reveal the names of harassers.
Impact of Sexual Harassment on the Organization
An incidence of sexual harassment leaves the victim in distress and agony, to say the least. But it can equally affect the organization too. A single sexual harassment case is enough to take down an entire organization. Regardless of how many years it invested in building itself.
A sexual harassment complaint can land your company in huge legal trouble. Even a single incident can affect your organisation inside-out. A company with a history of sexual harassment incidence can face the following-
- Impact on employees – Needless to say, sexual harassment creates unfavourable work environment for all employees. Hostile culture distracts them and leads to low productivity. And before you know it, they would lose the will to keep working at your organization.
- Financial impact – It’s your duty to provide safe work environment to all employees. Failure in doing that can leave a huge hole in your pocket. Organizations have ended up paying millions of dollars in settlement to the victim . Further, sexual harassment damages the organization’s goodwill which hampers relation with investors.
- Penal Consequence– According to the PoSH law, failure to comply with the PoSH law shall be punishable with a fine of fifty thousand rupees (INR 50,000). If any employer, after having been previously convicted of an offence punishable under the PoSH law, subsequently commits and is convicted of the same offense, he shall be liable to twice the punishment. Extended penalties to non-compliance also include withdrawal of license or cancellation of registration.
- Impact on hiring – An organization with previous cases of sexual harassment have a hard time hiring new employees. The reason is quite straightforward. Any kind of harassment creates an uncomfortable work environment that nobody likes to work in.
As an employer you would not want Sexual Harassment to impact your organisation.This is one of the reasons for the increased requirement of anti-harassment training. The PoSH law also made it mandatory for an organization to conduct training programs. Still, there are organizations in India which are not compliant with the law. Government is taking steps to tighten the noose on this. According to the recent amendment in the Companies Rules, 2014 the Director has to mention as statement that the Company has complied with provisions relating to the constitution of Internal Complaints Committee under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
Case Studies – Companies that Went Down due to Incidences of Sexual Harassment
In addition to creating an unfavourable work environment, incidence of sexual harassment can have severe consequences. Non-compliance to the PoSH law has taken down several companies in the past.
A series of complaints against high profile men has hit the headlines in the past few years. This not only took down the harasser but the entire organization.
The Yoga Studio (Fitness Training Centers)
Bikram Chaudhary’s founding company had to file for bankruptcy amid more than $16 million of debt. There were years of sexual harassment lawsuits against the founder that lead to the downfall.
Miki Jaffa Bodden, former head of legal and international affairs at the Yoga Studio said, “Bikram Choudhury created a hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages.”
Founder, Bikram Chaudhary, built a worldwide following with thousands of clients across continents. But following the series of harassment reports, had to pay $50 million in settlement. The organization was later not able to pay the debt. Resulting in an absolute shut down of his million-dollar company.
Tehelka – (Indian News Magazine)
On November, 2013, a female reporter accused founder Tarun Tejpal of sexual harassment. An investigation took place that resulted in rape and assault charges against Tejpal. The events forced Tejpal to step down from his position at Tehelka.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mathew Samuel, the newly appointed Managing Editor, said that the magazine has lost its regular readers and sales have significantly decreased. The organization has to fight hard to pay their existing employees. He further added that the once successful magazine is now “only the shadow of what it used to be”.
TVF (On Demand Content Viewing Platform)
After Tehelka, TVF created a stir in India. In the wake of an anonymous complaint, Arunabh Kumar had to step down from his position as the CEO.
A week after the accusation on Medium.com, an FIR was registered for molestation on March 16. Later, several women spoke up against Arunabh Kumar. There were several complaints against his inappropriate workplace behavior.
The brand suffered heavily in the wake of these sexual harassment accusations. Former CEO Kumar wrote in an open letter “will always be larger than just one individual” and it has hurt him how the entire organization suffer “in the wake of these personal attacks.”
Worksafe – Prevent Workplace Sexual Harassment
It is important for organizations, now more than ever, to prevent sexual harassment. Not just to protect their female employees but to protect the organization as a whole.
In the past, organizations turned a blind eye toward sexual harassment complaints. Complaints against sexual harassment were not taken sincerely and the absence of an anti-sexual harassment Law made it easier for organizations to put these incidences out of the light.
Women who faced harassment in the workplace were afraid of speaking up publicly due to lack of legal aid. Further, reporting sexual harassment had direct consequences on employment. Women who did speak up against sexual harassment, were shamed and shut setting up a poor example, thus indirectly encouraging harassers in the workplace.
But organizations failed to realize that the aim is not to get women to speak up. It is to prevent sexual harassment in the organization.
It is important to create a harassment free environment not only for the female employees but also male employees. Creating awareness among employees about the PoSH law can help you do so. The PoSH law was enforced in 2013 to protect women in workplaces against incidences of sexual harassment. The law also made it mandatory for organizations to train employees for prevent sexual harassment.
According to the PoSH law, it is mandatory for any organization with 10 or more employees to conduct awareness training among its employees to prevent sexual harassment in the organization.
Anti-sexual harassment trainings in organizations have helped strengthen workplace culture and increased the awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Compulsory participation of employees in training programs further helps in sending a strong message from the top. Especially when it comes to preventing harassment and other abusive behavior and creating a respectful workplace.
Is your organization PoSH compliant?
Sexual harassment can be prevalent in any organizations regardless of its size. In the past, the employers were unaware of any incidence of sexual harassment in their organization because women were afraid to report it.
But it is your duty as an employer to provide a safe working place to your employees. With anti-sexual harassment trainings and awareness programs, you now have legal aid to investigate and prevent sexual harassment in the organization.
Ensure PoSH compliance in your organization today to prevent sexual harassment. Create a safe working environment for the employees as well as the management.
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