Sexual Harassment at Infosys

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Case Details:

Case Code : BECG022
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 1999 - 2001
Pub. Date : 2002
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Infosys
Industry : Information Technology
Countries : India

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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The Fall of a High Priest Contd...

Analysts wondered how a company that Forbes had once described as "a model of transparency, not just for the rest of corporate India but for companies everywhere," do such things! The saga of Phaneesh, Reka and Infosys and the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace (in India as well as abroad) were debated heatedly in corporate and media circles, as many more shocking events unfolded over the next one year.

Background Note

The sexual harassment of employees manifests itself in different ways, depending on the social norms prevalent in various parts of the world. Broadly speaking, sexual harassment at the workplace can be divided into two categories: 'quid pro quo' and 'hostile working environment.'

Quid pro quo involves making the conditions of employment contingent on the employee (prospective/existing) granting the employer sexual favors. The employer makes it very clear that hiring, promotions, perks, facilities etc. would be possible only if the employee consents to the former's sexual advances. This is a very 'easy to identify' and comparatively 'easy to prove' form of sexual harassment.

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The 'hostile working environment' form of harassment, which is the basis of most of the court cases filed, is more difficult to identify and prove. As per a 1993 US Supreme Court ruling, this has been defined as, "When the workplace is permeated with 'discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is 'sufficiently' severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment."

Thus, any employee who indulges in speech or conduct of sexually discriminatory nature, without encouragement from/being welcomed by the employee so as to create an abusive working environment and negatively affecting the employee's performance would fall under the purview of this form of harassment. Though the law clearly defines sexual harassment, the diverse socio-cultural environment of different countries complicates the matter. Reportedly, the rather 'free' behavior of Japanese bosses towards their female subordinates would come as a shock to people from the US or many other parts of the world. Even within a country, organization or office, the exact nature of the incident depends on the attitude, upbringing and behavioral patterns of the people involved...

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