Sex discrimination victory for worker ‘forced into affair with boss’

A former employee of software giant Wipro has won a wide-ranging sex discrimination case that included claims that she was forced into an affair with a senior leader.

Shreya Ukil worked for the technology services business for around a decade in sales and market development roles. She alleged that she was subjected to a “deeply predatory, misogynistic culture” and had claimed £1.2 million in damages.

The London employment tribunal found Wipro guilty of direct sex discrimination, racial discrimination, unfair dismissal and multiple instances of victimisation. It rejected a claim for wrongful dismissal. Damages will be decided at a later date.

The tribunal accepted that asking Ukil to sign an indemnity to prevent her from bringing claims against Wipro in October 2013 was an act of victimisation. It found that she was further victimised for speaking up about unequal pay and a culture of sexism.

Ukil was also successful in an equal pay claim after discovering she was paid less than male colleagues doing the same work. The judgment said Wipro’s pay policies were “tainted with gender discrimination”. The firm had defended itself by claiming that remuneration policies that took account of employees’ gender and marital status, among other factors, were justified.

Ukil told the tribunal she was forced into an affair by Manoj Punja, head of Wipro’s business process outsourcing office in London, and had been subjected to comments that she looked like a “seductive dancer from Indian mythology” and had the “curves of a Russian body”. Punja was reported to have left the business after failing to disclose a relationship with Ukil.

Ukil said in a statement that she hoped the ruling would persuade companies to reconsider the way they treat female employees. “I hope this verdict will encourage women everywhere, at every level, to raise their voices and be heard. It is undoubtedly a struggle and a very hard one, but the only way to change this equation is by ensuring that it is brought to light.

“No organisation or person is too big that they can get away with unethical and illegal behaviour. It was a fight for respect and equality and, as hard as it has been, if I had to fight it again, I would, with all my heart,” she said.

Wipro said it was pleased the tribunal had rejected the wrongful dismissal claim, and added: “The company has built its business over the years by ensuring it adheres to the highest standards of integrity, fairness and ethical corporate practices. Any transgression of these beliefs and policies will continue to be dealt with expeditiously and with the strictest action.

“We have been recognised in various fora for our progressive and proactive inclusion and diversity frameworks. For several years now, Wipro has had a Global Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committee – an impartial body for investigation, with members across locations, including an external expert.”

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