A role boundary defines the duties, rights and limitations to reduce confusion or misperceptions among those involved. However, when you are a part of ICC at a workplace, sometimes these boundaries seem blurred when you have a larger cause at sight, that of being compassionate towards a victim of sexual harassment.
Here is a third party harassment case that we handled in one of the companies which encountered this dilemma and the ICC handled the case humanely learning a great deal along the way.
The victim was a job seeker (woman) living close to an industrial area around Bangalore. The respondent was a contracted security guard of a small manufacturing company. It so happened that the victim had come to the company premises to submit her resume for a job. The security guard received her resume and promised to call her back in case she is shortlisted by the HR. The HR after going through the resume found her to be unsuitable and specifically told the security guard not to entertain such resumes since it is totally unrelated to the kind of work they do.
However the security guard called her number (mentioned in the resume) and informed her that she has been shortlisted and asked her to come for an interview the following Sunday .The victim, without realizing that most companies are closed on Sundays, chose to come for the interview at 9 A.M.
On the day, when she came to the company for the interview, the respondent was waiting for her. He led her to a room stating that the HR would come there for the interview. He went out, checked the surrounding and found no one outside. He went back to the room, locked it from the inside and tried molesting her. The victim quickly realized his intentions starting crying for help, banging on the door and shouting loudly.
Apparently a gardener tending the plants heard her cries and quickly rushed to the spot and started shouting from outside. The respondent (security guard) realized that he is in trouble, opened the door and ran outside. He escaped through the main gate and before the gardener could call for help, he was gone.
The victim was shocked. The gardener offered her water to drink and escorted her to an autorickshaw outside that drove her home.
The victim returned to the company the next day with her husband to complain to the management. As soon as the management heard her story, they called the ICC to take up the matter immediately.
Will this be the responsibility of the company’s POSH committee?
No it does not since the victim (the woman) and the respondent (security guard) both are not the employees of the company. It would have directly come under the scope of the ICC, if at least one of them, either the victim or the alleged harasser were employees of the company.
Ideally, what is the responsibility of the ICC in such a case?
ICC met the victim, took her complaint in detail and offered to help her in whatever way possible. It is important to note that the right thing to do would be to assist the victim even if it does not come under the scope. At the time of need, when the victim is scared, it is important that the ICC of the company offers help.
What actions did the ICC of the company take?
- The gardener was interrogated as witness to get complete details of her account which was documented.
- The vendor was called for a hearing as the respondent had committed the act and fled the scene.
- The vendor was asked to submit all the personal details of the respondent (security guard).
- As the vendor company did not have an ICC, the ICC of the company helped her lodge a written complaint in the local police station.The ICC also furnished all the relevant documentation that they had collected post their initial investigation about the incident along with all the details ofthe alleged harasser.
- The ICC having gone through the existing Background Verification Process, recommended to the management to restructure the Background Verification process with additional checks, applicable to all the existing and new vendors with immediate effect
- The vendor was given our company policy on POSH and an agreement was put in place to ensure no one from the vendor company, be it office boys, security guard or housekeeping staff would enter premises without having gone through the company POSH policy.
- An awareness session in Kannada was arranged on POSH to all the third party contractors working in the company.
It is important to note that ICC needs to focus on the value they want to create which is of a larger significance to the organisation, rather than scope of work.
Hence the role of ICC cannot be completely defined and boundaries drawn. There are times when they need to go beyond the call of duties to ensure they do the “right thing”.