For all its pontification on upholding individual rights, fighting for freedom of expression, maintaining propriety and sundry other things, Twitter India operated for over six years without a committee on sexual harassment to address grievances of employees, a report published on Sunday Guardian said.
India passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act in 2013. Under the law, organisations were required to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to address allegations of sexual harassment.
However, until the end of March 2019, more than six years after the law came into existence, Twitter Communications India Private Limited had not put in place any anti-sexual harassment policy to tackle the cases of sexual harassment within the organisation. And this, despite two instances of sexual harassment taking place in Twitter India offices, one in Delhi and another in Bangalore, prior to March 2019, as per Twitter’s own submission with the Government of India.
In its filing with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) on 19 September 2019 for the financial year April 2018-March 2019, Twitter mentioned that it had not complied with the anti-sexual harassment law passed over six years ago, in 2013.
The statement issued by the company had then read: “The company is in the process of setting up the Internal Complaints Committee as required under the said act. Similarly, the company is in the process of establishing its anti-sexual harassment policy as per the provision of the said act.”
It is worth noting that Twitter was incorporated in India in February 2013 while the anti-sexual harassment at workplaces law was legislated in December 2013.
Twitter India reported two cases of sexual harassment at workplace in six years of its existence
While Twitter remained noncompliant with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, for over six years, there were at least two reported incidents of sexual harassment in Twitter offices.
“Formal written complaint of sexual harassment raised by a Twitter employee in Delhi, X will be included as an IC member in relation to that complaint”, the filing submitted by Twitter India reads. IC here means Internal Committee. The name of the employee has been redacted and replaced with “X”.
The second complaint about sexual harassment at work place, according to Twitter’s filing, reads: “Formal written complaint of sexual harassment raised by a Twitter employee in Bangalore, A and B will be included as IC members in relation to that complaint.” The names of the employees are replaced by alphabets “A” and “B”.”
In its filing, Twitter mentioned that it constituted a five-member Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) comprising its legal counsel, employees from the human resource department and an external member.
As per the provisions of the law, violation of the Act attracts a penalty, including imposition of a fine up to Rs 50,000 and twice the amount of fine for repetition of the same offence. Furthermore, the law also includes provisions for withdrawal, non-renewal or cancellation of business licences, as the case may be, in case of repeated non-compliance.
Twitter’s response to questions asked over non-compliance of the anti-sexual harassment Act
The Sunday Guardian Live approached Twitter with a set of question over its non-compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
In its response, Twitter said: “Twitter does not tolerate sexual harassment at the workplace and has established an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in India to address sexual harassment complaints in accordance with Indian law. To date, the ICC has not received any formal complaints of this nature. We disclose this information in our annual filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, as required by law.”