BENGALURU – Shreya Ukil, a 40-year-old Indian woman who was formerly a senior techie at the Wipro back office in London, has won a lawsuit in a British tribunal against the IT giant, for sacking her on the grounds of gender discrimination, unequal pay and victimization.

Wipro, however, said the tribunal upheld the dismissal as appropriate and rejected claims of adverse cultural attitude towards women in the organization.

"Wipro leadership team, including its (then) chief executive T.K. Kurien, conspired to push Ukil out of her job and her role in Britain," Ukil’s lawyers Slater & Gordon said in a joint statement from London on May 4.

According to documents submitted to the tribunal, Ukil allegedly “submitted to aggressive sexual advances” from her married boss Manoj Punja, 54, after she transferred to London from Wipro's Bangalore headquarters in 2010.

Punja, who has since resigned, is alleged to have told Ukil she was “like one of those seductive dancers from Indian mythology, Apsara, who tested the celibacy of the great saints,” reported The Daily Mail. When she initially said she wouldn't sleep with him, Punja allegedly said she was “forgetting who she was talking to.”

Ukil also alleged she was paid far less than her male counterparts.

The judgment of the London Employment Tribunal found that the directive to fire Ukil had come from the very top and was followed through with considerable resolve.

"Ukil was victimized by Wipro's leadership for speaking up about sex discrimination, unequal pay and a culture of sexism," the statement asserted.

Wipro, however, contradicted Ukil's claim, and said in a statement later that "it was pleased the tribunal had upheld the dismissal of the complainant from the services of the organization as appropriate and rejected claims of adverse cultural attitude towards women in the organization.”

In an e-mail response to Wipro's statement, Ukil told IANS that she had won on her claim for equal pay.

"The court also ruled in my favor on sex discrimination, victimization and unfair dismissal," Ukil reiterated, adding that the verdict on her charges was published on April 18, while the verdict on equal pay was published on July 7, 2015.

Enclosing parts of the judgment's operative portion to contest Wipro's counter-claim, Ukil said the tribunal found that the company's rejection of her resignation in September 2014 was an act of victimization and that she was dismissed unfairly.

"The tribunal found that I was a victim of acts of sexism and racism, as the company did not upheld the well-founded complaints of discrimination against me," Ukil said.

The tribunal also accepted that Ukil was asked to sign an indemnity to prevent from bringing claims against the company in October 2013 as an act of victimisation.

"The court verdict is in public domain. There is no out-of-court settlement," she affirmed.

Ukil, who worked with Wipro for almost 10 years and won multi-million-dollar contracts for it, started raising concerns in 2012, which went unheeded.

Instead of addressing Ukil's concerns, a series of decisions were made by the management behind the scenes, including chief legal counsel Inderpreet Sawhney, human resources global head Saurabh Govil and Kurien in a bid to remove her from her role in London.

Ukil sued the Bengaluru-based outsourcing firm in October 2015, seeking one million pounds compensation for gender discrimination, unequal pay and harassment.

"Compensation (referred to as 'remedy') will be decided at a later date," Ukil noted.

Sacking Ukil and Punja, 54, the company said then that they were relieved from service after an internal inquiry established that they were into a relationship but did not report about it to the company as a policy.

Ukil, who was sales and market development manager for the back office operations in London, filed the lawsuit with the tribunal, claiming she was forced into an affair by Punja, a married man, who was head of its business process outsourcing (BPO) office in London.

Having lost all faith, Ukil raised her final grievances with Wipro chairman Azim Premji, who assured her of a fair and impartial investigation.

When she resigned from her role in September 2014 in an e-mail to Premji, her resignation was not accepted and she was fired four days later whilst still on sick leave.

The tribunal found that comments made by Wipro employees, Sid Sharma and George Joseph on separate occasions reflected an "extra undercurrent of sexism in their attitudes" towards Ukil, with remarks that plainly conveyed sexist innuendo.”

"I hope that following this judgment, companies will again reconsider their treatment of female employees, ensuring they are treated fairly and equally," Ukil added.

(1) comment

Srinivas Jayaraman

I see that Miss Ukil was fired when she was out sick. Under US law, not only the company but also the boss who fired an employee while the employee is sick, is personally liable for damages. Guess UK has no such protection even though UK is more pro-employee in many areas.

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