#MeToo: #TimesUp for Two Editors; Agency CEO Gets Into Action

TOI Hyderabad Editor sent on Administrative Leave, Gautam Adhikari resigns as a senior fellow of a think tank, Ashish Bhasin writes to all DAN employees and more

Me Too

The #MeToo movement grew stronger on Tuesday with more women across coming out with their experiences and many men being held responsible for their actions. One senior editor was sent on administrative leave, another editor resigned from an honorary position, and advertising industry veteran Ashish Bhasin spoke about zero tolerance towards sexual harassment. 

India’s leading national daily - Times of India - took action against its Hyderabad editor KR Sreenivas who is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. The organisation issued a statement that said that Sreenivas has been sent on ‘administrative leave’ till an inquiry is conducted and completed against him.

DNA Mumbai founding editor, Gautam Adhikari, resigned as a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress (CAP) after he was accused in multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Editors Guild of India too took cognisance of the movement which has put the spotlight on the dark underbelly of India’s newsrooms. In a statement, the Editors Guild of India condemned the predatory conduct by men. “It is worse when the perpetrators also happen to be enjoying senior or supervisory positions in the profession,” the statement read. The Guild called upon “media organisations to hold unbiased inquiries into all reported cases.” 

Not just the print industry, but advertising agencies too launched into action with Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO - South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network sending out a company-wide email on DAN’s zero-tolerance policy. 

In the email (accessed by exchange4media) he said, “I want to reach out to all employees of DAN India and reiterate that as an organisation we do not and WILL NOT accept anything but professional behaviour at the workplace. We are committed to taking any complaint in this context to a speedy conclusion post thorough investigation. Any employee found guilty of inappropriate behaviour will face disciplinary action, including Immediate Termination from services.” An employee of iProspect India (part of DAN) is facing allegations of sexual misconduct at a previous organisation. 

The Complex HR Problem 

The allegations that have surfaced against some of the men has thrown up a gaping hole in the recruitment process across the industry. One agency head told exchange4media that while a prospective employer conducts reference checks about a candidate, at no point is any enquiry made about sexual misconduct in particular. 

In a couple of cases that have emerged over the last few days employers are grappling with the procedural complexities that the #MeToo movement has raised. An organisation is in a quandary over taking up an allegation suo moto when the complaints are shared on social media and not directly with the employer of the person facing the allegations. The other complexity that one agency head mentioned is the protocol to follow when an allegation is made against an employee for an incident that took place at a different organisation. 

One of the agencies whose employee is facing allegations of sexual harassment is in the process of figuring out the exact procedure to conduct an investigation into the case. “Details of a previous such investigation are confidential. So we need to approach the previous employer to find out the details of that investigation, if there was one. In addition, if the previous employer investigated the case and appropriate action was taken against the person, then, by law the same person cannot be punished for the same case,” an agency insider told exchange4media. 

A senior HR professional that exchange4media consulted with on the policy for such cases said that the current employer can “on moral grounds, still ask the employee to submit a clarification to them, assuring them that the issue was dealt with before the person moved into the new organisation.” 

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