2nd embarrassment after Phaneesh Murthy case.
By The American Bazaar Staff
WASHINGTON, DC: The sexual harassment legal woes of the Bengaluru-headquartered information-technology outsourcing company iGate continues: barely two years after its CEO Phaneesh Murthy was forced to quit the company after a co-worker filed a case against him, a similar case has been filed in California against its global general counsel Mukund Srinath by Karetha Dodd, who worked for almost five years at iGate as Vice President – Head of Legal (Americas).
Dodd resigned from her position with iGate Technologies Inc. in Fremont, Calif., in mid-2013 and sued the company late last year, reported The Recorder.
According to the suit, Dodd’s supervisor, Srinath, repeatedly propositioned her, forcibly kissed her and placed her hand on his genitals, and withheld a promotion after she refused to meet alone with him in his hotel room. After Dodd reported the episodes to an outside lawyer for the company, Srinath retaliated by removing her from projects and rehiring an employee she had just fired, the suit alleges.
“The result of what has happened to my client is that she has lost the value of 20-plus years of work, culminating in one of the best jobs someone can have as a lawyer,” said Dodd’s lawyer, Randall Aiman-Smith, a partner at Oakland-based Aiman-Smith & Marcy, reported Recorder. “She was forced to leave that job because she was treated as a piece of meat, instead of a respected colleague.”
The firm had represented Aracela Roiz, who had charged Murthy earlier.
IGate, represented by Nixon Peabody partners Michael Hallerud and Bonnie Glatzer, has not filed a formal response to the allegations but acted last week to transfer Dodd’s suit from Alameda County Superior Court to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
iGate, ranks 53rd on the Silicon Valley 150, a list of the Bay Area’s biggest technology companies compiled by the San Jose Mercury News, and it appears on Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 fastest-growing publicly traded companies. Its annual revenue is roughly $1.2 billion.
In 2011, iGate acquired Patni Computer Systems, where Dodd worked as the general counsel for U.S. operations. After the sale, Dodd became iGate’s head of legal for the Americas based in Cambridge, Mass.
Dodd’s first encounter with Srinath, iGate’s global general counsel, came when he visited Cambridge in April 2012 from Bangalore, the Recorder reported. According to the complaint, Srinath asked Dodd to take him to a strip club, which she reluctantly did.
Dodd and Srinath later got into a cab, and Dodd’s lawyers allege that Srinath pressured Dodd to come to his hotel. “Srinath began asking, then insisting, that plaintiff return with him to his hotel for ‘just one drink’ in the lobby,” the suit says.
In September of that year, Dodd traveled to iGate headquarters in India. At a dinner with Srinath on the final day of her visit, Dodd claims that Srinath made aggressive sexual advances and proposed that they have an affair.
“Srinath then grabbed Plaintiff by the shoulders and kissed her forcefully on the mouth,” the suit states. He later grabbed Dodd’s hand and “put it on his erect penis saying ‘See what you do to me,’ ” according to the complaint.
In early 2013, Dodd transferred to the company’s Fremont location. According to Dodd’s suit, Srinath told her prior to a planned visit that he intended to make her global head of contracts, a significant promotion.
During his visit, the suit alleges, Srinath told Dodd she should come to his hotel room at 8 p.m. with a bottle of wine to discuss the promotion. Dodd refused and Srinath later told her “the promotion had been ‘put on hold’ until her next visit to India when they ‘could discuss it in person,’ ” the suit states.
Aiman-Smith said Dodd felt she could not report Srinath because he was close friends with the company’s top executives.
“Her boss was her harasser, and his close friend and confidant is the CEO of the company,” the lawyer said. “To complain about him, or to him, was functionally not possible and would have been a career-ending move.”
Dodd sat on iGate’s harassment committee, but that position did not help her, according to the suit.
“[Dodd] came to learn about the complete lack of an investigation of previous claims of sexual harassment and discrimination made by iGate employees prior to [her] tenure as head of Legal (Americas) for iGate,” the suit says. “Therefore, [Dodd] reasonably believed neither the CEO, nor iGate as an organization, nor its highest executives, took its own policies seriously and, therefore, [Dodd] reasonably believed she had no one else to turn to for assistance.”
IGate’s former, CEO Phaneesh Murthy, was fired in May 2013 after an investigation into sexual harassment claims by a subordinate employee. In her suit, Dodd says she reported Srinath’s conduct to the outside counsel retained to investigate Murthy, Morrison & Foerster senior counsel Tom Wilson. Afterwards, according to the suit, Srinath began a campaign of retaliation.
Dodd’s lawyers are asking for lost wages, other damages and attorney fees. The suit claims that Dodd’s compensation package at iGate, including benefits and stock, was worth roughly $300,000.
According to The Times of India, iGate said in a statement: “We have completed a thorough investigation into this claim, and have found that it is unequivocally without merit. We intend to vigorously defend this action. Igate has a zero tolerance policy on harassment of any kind, and is committed to maintaining a caring and nurturing workplace.”