Senior Executive Wins Equal Pay, Sex Discrimination and Victimisation Case Against Outsourcing Firm, Wipro

May 04, 2016, 09:37 ET from Slater and Gordon Lawyers

LONDON, May 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

Shreya Ukil, a senior female executive who took on Wipro, a large outsourcing firm, has won an equal pay, sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and victimisation case, which she brought against her former employer.

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Ms. Ukil claimed that the leadership team at the outsourcing firm Wipro, including CEO TK Kurien, conspired to push her out of her job and out of her UK role. The damning judgment found that "direction had come from the very top and was followed through with considerable resolve."

The tribunal found that Ms. Ukil was victimised by Wipro's leadership team for speaking up about sex discrimination, unequal pay and a culture of sexism.

Ms. Ukil who worked with Wipro for almost 10 years, won multi-million dollar contracts for the firm and received numerous performance awards, started raising concerns in 2012, which went unheeded.  

Instead of addressing Ms. Ukil's concerns, a series of decisions were made by management behind the scenes, including Inderpreet Sawhney, Wipro's Chief Legal Counsel; Saurabh Govil, Global Head, HR and Wipro CEO, TK Kurien in a bid to remove Ms. Ukil from her role in London.

The tribunal inferred that "steps were thereafter taken to ensure that she was not able to move anywhere else in Europe." The tribunal outlined that "the view was taken that the risk of [Ms. Ukil] causing difficulty by taking some further action on that allegation [of sex discrimination] would be most effectively contained or averted, were she to be removed to India."  

Ms. Ukil was further required to sign an indemnity by the Chief Legal Counsel to waive all claims against the company that she might make, as Wipro became increasingly fearful of claims of sexual harassment she might make against a senior management team member.

Having lost all faith, Ms. Ukil raised her final grievances with Wipro's Chairman, Azim Premji, who assured her of a fair and impartial investigation. However, the grievance investigation dismissed Ms. Ukil's claims, and she was immediately disciplined.

Ms. Ukil resigned from her role in September 2014 in an email to Chairman Azim 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 Ms. Ukil, with remarks that "plainly conveyed a sexist innuendo." It was noted that comments about Ms. Ukil being "extremely shrill, shallow and uneuropean" by Sid Sharma, a former colleague of Ms. Ukil, were "sexist" and potentially amounted to race discrimination.

The investigation into those claims by Ms. Ukil, conducted by Ms. Sunita Cherian, Senior VP and Wipro's Global Head of Gender Diversity, was heavily criticized by the tribunal who stated that "Ms. Cherian found the complaint unfounded despite compelling evidence to the contrary" and that "this amounted to detrimental treatment because the claimant [Ms. Ukil] had made the allegation."

Ms. Ukil was also successful in an equal pay claim against Wipro after she discovered she was paid significantly less than her male colleagues who were doing the same work.

The outsourcing firm defended themselves at the tribunal by stating that Ms. Ukil's significantly lower pay was justified based on their pay policies which took into account an employee's origin, gender and marital status, amongst other factors. The judgment read that Wipro's pay policies appeared to be "tainted with gender discrimination."

Ms. Ukil's employment lawyers, Slater and Gordon, said, "Ms. Ukil is pleased that the tribunal found against Wipro and that it recognized that senior members of Wipro's leadership were directing matters to remove Ms. Ukil from her team and from the UK altogether. She was not afforded even a fair hearing by her employer prior to her dismissal whilst on sick leave."

"She was an incredibly hard working, diligent and successful employee and did not deserve to be treated this way."

"Being subject to this on-going discrimination and victimisation has taken its toll on Ms. Ukil and her health suffered as a result, but she demonstrated great strength and incredible resolve in coming forward and fighting for justice."

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

She said, "I am incredibly grateful for the innumerable messages of support I have received from men and women alike. 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."

SOURCE Slater and Gordon Lawyers