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Exclusive: Flipkart’s sexual harassment complaints double to 28 in FY19

Walmart-backed Flipkart received 28 sexual harassment complaints across its three entities with almost half of them pouring in from its logistics arm during FY19, according to regulatory filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).

This is a sharp jump from a total of 14 complaints the previous year, marking the firm’s efforts to create a safe environment for its employees to be able to report misdemeanours. 

While the company’s focus on taking up cases of sexual harassment seriously could be a consequence of the ‘MeToo’ movement, lawyers and experts Entrackr spoke to say it’s Walmart’s focus on compliance that has boosted awareness across the firm.

“There is a lot of focus on POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) policies training and sensitisation on inclusivity since last 12 months,” said an employee, requesting anonymity. “Also the organisation is being actively encouraged to increase diversity, including gender diversity.” 

According to the filings, Instakart, which runs the firm’s logistics arm Ekart, reported 13 sexual harassment complaints in FY19, a significant jump from 3 during FY18. Of the 13 cases, 12 were investigated during the year following which 11 were disposed of. 

The firm handled the cases in multiple ways: firing the accused if the allegation was proven, disposing of the case if the allegation was not proven, and by undertaking an apology in other cases. Interestingly, eKart also had to dispose of at least one case where the accused had absconded. In contrast, the three cases during FY18 were only investigated but never disposed of, according to the filings. 

“At Flipkart, we are focused on providing our employees a safe and secure workplace,” said a Flipkart spokesperson. “The cases reported last year saw appropriate action and closure based on the recommendations of the committee. However, due to the confidential nature of this process, we will not be able to share details.” 

Entrackr has previously reported that Flipkart India and Flipkart Internet together received a total of 15 sexual harassment complaints in FY19.  

Several experts and lawyers Entrackr spoke with say that an increase in the number of reported cases is a sign of a company having a good redressal mechanism in place.

“An increase in the number of reported cases may not necessarily be a bad thing because it also means that the company is creating a safe environment for the employee to speak up,” said Sairee Chahal, CEO of a community platform for women, Sheroes, which also runs a helpline. “If a company says they have zero sexual harassment complaints, I would be wary because in a workplace of so many employees you are bound to have some cases.”

Another reason for an increase in reported cases could be because the MCA made it mandatory for companies in July 2018 to disclose their POSH compliance in the annual reports. 

“For the last one year, we are seeing that large companies are proactive when it comes to training for prevention but the percentage continues to be low,” said Rachna Roy, founder and lead counsel of Gurugram-based Counsel Quest. That said, startups still have a long way to go with respect to prevention since early-stage companies run a tight ship not wanting to increase costs.

“Those startups that are funded are still a little more aware and want to do something about it because even one incident may lead to them losing their key resources,” added Roy.

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