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Ex Tata executive alleges sexual harassment; group says matter investigated by independent panel

twitter-logoPTI | November 2, 2018 | Updated 13:57 IST

New Delhi, Nov 2 (PTI) A former Tata Group executive has alleged that the salt-to-software conglomerate did not hear her pleas against sexual harassment she faced at the hands of a CEO of a group firm, a charge that the group denied saying it always took "decisive action on evidence of inappropriate conduct." Writing for a leading English daily, Anjuli Pandit, a former executive assistant to ex-MD & CEO of Taj Hotels, Rakesh Sarna, claimed she reached out to Taj board members, Tata Group Executive Council members, the chairman and the senior-most HR official with her complaint against Sarna. "The only resolution they could find was to ask me to resign from Taj, immediately," she wrote, adding she "lost trust in Taj's process" as the company's Internal Complaint Committee, comprised "Sarna, four people within two reporting lines of him and an external member from one of Tata's closest law firms". Responding to queries on the issue, a Tata Group spokesperson said Pandit's case was "investigated by an appropriate independent committee". "The findings were informed to Pandit by a former director of IHCL. We hear her and others, and we recognise the opportunity to raise the bar," the spokesperson added. Stating that 'each matter is investigated' under the Tata Code of Conduct, the spokesperson said:"We have always taken decisive action on evidence of inappropriate conduct in the organisation." A spokesperson of IHCL, that owns the Taj Hotels, said, "the matter referred to in your mail was investigated and dealt with by an appropriate independent committee constituted for this purpose." In the article published Thursday, Pandit claimed that after she put in her papers in November 2015, the same law firm approached her on behalf of Tata Sons to sign a letter guaranteeing she wouldn't speak about the issue to the Press. "When I refused, Taj constituted a new inquiry committee to prove due diligence. The committee failed to find any resolution and, to this day, have ignored my requests to share their process and final report for which I have legal rights to review or appeal," she said. Pandit, a US citizen and an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holder, had joined the Group in 2009 and had taken a break to pursue further studies in Paris. Later in January 2014, she joined back in then Tata Sons Chairman Cyrus Mistry's office, managing government relations with Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Then she moved to Taj Hotels as Sarna's Executive Assistant on his request, Pandit claimed. Alleging sexual harassment by Sarna, she said,"the sexual advances started with comments about the worth of my physical appearance during our salary discussions. "Over the seven months he remarked on my looks, his attraction to me and his desire to have an affair. His advances were always verbal. And I was always clear I was not interested," she said. Pandit further said: "Whether I deflected, professionally requested, or burst into tears in frustration, he persisted. The environment became intolerable as we both lost our patience." She said after she raised the issue with the Taj board members, Tata Group Executive Council members and the chairman, she was offered "a mediocre role in a Tata Sons back office, relegated to a desk without a phone, and no assurance of my career prospects". "When I said I felt I was being unfairly sidelined for speaking up, the chairman told me this was the 'best we can do'. I felt as though they had nailed a glass ceiling over my head. Devastated, I quit," she wrote. Last month, Tata Sons had severed ties with brand consultant Suhel Seth who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women. PTI AKT RKL ANZ RKL ANU ANU

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