Author : Aditi Chopra
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Molly, dressed in her pink pajama suit, threw her book on the family-room table. “Mom, what’s wrong with you?” She raised her voice when her mom didn’t respond the first time.
Ritu narrowed her eyes. She raised her legs over the ottoman and looked at Molly. “What?” she said as she adjusted her dark-brown shawl to cover herself.
Molly asked, “Oh no, not again! You are thinking about work, aren’t you?”
Ritu got up, carefully avoiding Molly’s eyes. “What makes you say that?”
Ritu walked over to her kitchen island and lighted the scented candle that she had recently bought. Ritu kept her home well organized and preferred candles during winter season. It helped her maintain her inner peace.
Molly came over to where her mom stood in the kitchen, “For one, I had to ask you the same question twice. And…”
Ritu interrupted, “And what?”
“Never mind,” Molly sighed.
Ritu looked at her daughter’s face and couldn’t deny that she was right again. Her work was definitely on her mind and it was distracting her from helping her daughter out with her studies.
“I’m sorry, let’s continue,” Ritu said softly.
“Mom, you know how important this test is to me. If Dad was not travelling, I would ask for his help but you can’t…”
“I said, I’m sorry. Now, let’s resume, I’m here to help, why are you bringing Dad into the discussion? I do so much for you and it’s still not enough?”
Molly smiled. “It’s not that. Your face tells me when you are consumed by your work. What exactly do you do, remind me again?” Molly continued, genuinely interested in her mom’s work.
Ritu sighed, “For the umpteenth time, I work in the Human Resources department and I handle employee grievances. But I don’t want to bother you with my issues. Let’s get back to studies. Tell me the difference between Shias and Sunnis.”
Ritu spent the next hour helping Molly study for her high school exam but her mind was constantly thinking about the grievance that was filed at work last Friday. She couldn’t stop thinking about it. It wasn’t any normal complaint, and she had no experience in such matters whatsoever.
After Ritu exhausted herself thinking in a loop, she decided that she would consult her boss before she took any action. Ritu had multiple issues with the complaint and didn’t want to take the wrong step.
Mountain View, CA – Feb. 16th, 11 a.m.
It was Monday morning and Ritu sat in her office, anxiously waiting to meet up with her boss, Charles. She was trying to get some work done, but her mind kept going back to the complaint.
She stopped by Charles’ office as soon as he was free.
“Ah, Ritu. How are you this morning?” Charles asked as he signaled her to sit in the empty chair across from his desk.
“Not so good, I’m afraid.” Ritu was too distracted to exchange any formalities. She wanted to get straight to the point. “I‘d like to discuss a grievance that was filed last Friday.” She paused. “It’s quite unusual.”
“How so?” Charles raised his eyebrows.
Ritu stared at him without blinking. “It’s for sexual harassment!”
Charles’s facial expression clearly showed that he was taken aback. He scratched his jaw and said, “Really? In my twenty-five years of service, I’ve had only one of those and it wasn’t fun at all!”
Ritu sighed with relief that she wasn’t alone in the apprehension that she had experienced since she read the complaint. She shifted her weight to the left of her chair.
“Exactly! I have no experience except for what I was taught in the PHR certification training.” She quickly added, “I’m not even sure if that was enough. I could use your guidance on how to approach this hot potato.”
“Yes, absolutely! Who has filed it? I didn’t think a company the size of AppDev would be encountering such a case.” Charles was clearly thinking out loud. He had joined AppDev when it was a startup, and he had grown within the company. For some reason he still looked at it as a startup, even though it had grown a lot in size and had done extremely well after its Initial Public Offering. AppDev’s growth wasn’t surprising, since the smart-phone apps that it developed were extremely profitable. It had a huge target market since its apps worked on multiple brands of smartphones.
“To be very honest, I’m somewhat skeptical of the complaint; it is filed by one of the software developers. Her name is Namrata,” Ritu said. “For some reason I think she doesn’t know what she is talking about!” she quickly added.
Charles pulled his eyebrows together. “Why do you say that? Haven’t we developed a sexual harassment video in our training material that every employee has to watch and sign off on? Let me pull up her file and see if she did watch it…”
Ritu interrupted. “She may very well have, but it’s just my gut telling me that she is blowing this way out of proportion.”
Charles pulled up Namrata’s file on his computer. “As a matter of fact, she has completed all of her HR mandatory training and she did watch the video. Whom is she complaining against?”
“He is one of the senior product managers, Paras,” Ritu replied. “Paras has a spotless record. And what bothers me is that there isn’t a lot of detail in the grievance. It makes me doubt the whole thing.”
Charles thought for a minute while brushing his fingers through his curly hair. He was well in his fifties and had a thriving experience under his belt. “Well, let’s not jump to any conclusions. Perhaps she is not sure how we will handle it, which is why she hasn’t documented any details.”
“I see. So what do you suggest we do?” Ritu asked, giving the benefit of doubt to Namrata.
“I’d start with her manager and see if he has any clue. Find out if she has discussed the matter with him and let’s take it from there. Shall we?”
Ritu nodded. “That sounds perfect. Thanks for helping me out with this one. I’m pretty sure I’ll be discussing this quite a bit with you, so bear with me, please.”
Charles got up and placed his hands on Ritu’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. What’s more important is that we handle this with absolute care and privacy. This is a delicate matter, and I don’t want AppDev to suffer because we couldn’t handle it appropriately. So keep me in the loop on any development.”
Ritu nodded, “Will do.”