Washington, July 26: Three months after information technology giant Infosys settled a sensational sexual harassment lawsuit against its former director Phaneesh Murthy, another India-born computer professional in the US is facing similar circumstances.
A female systems programmer at Oracle Corporation, also of Indian origin, has filed a suit against Mahesh Anand, her former supervisor, alleging that she was sexually assaulted repeatedly and discriminated against while Oracle stood by without helping her after the incidents were reported by her to the company.
The woman is only identified in the court documents as “Barbara Doe”, but this is said to be a pseudonym to protect her privacy. She is 33.
Her attorney, John D Winer, said in a statement that “the plaintiff was forced to perform unspeakable sex acts on her supervisor who had indicated that she would be laid off if she did not comply. For a major corporation, Oracle’s failure to protect its employees from this type of hostile environment is remarkable”.
The story of “Barbara Doe” begins in the lawsuit on June 14, 2000, when she was hired to work at Oracle’s offices in San Mateo, California.
Shortly thereafter, Anand joined Oracle and was given the work station next to hers. In November 2000, he was named project manager and “Doe” was given the option of joining his work team, ostensibly because of their shared cultural and ethnic background.
She accepted the offer about three months later. The lawsuit alleges that as her supervisor, Anand knew that managers in India “can often exert unfettered power over their women subordinates”.
In January this year, when her husband was out of town visiting his ailing father, Anand called “Doe” into his office and asked her “personal and offensive” questions about her sex life, according to the lawsuit.
He then allegedly told her: “You should learn the art of keeping your manager happy.” Anand hinted that Oracle was going to lay off employees and proceeded to sexually assault her.
When “Doe” failed to report to work the next day, he telephoned her several times and finally turned up at her house, where he pushed her onto a couch and sexually assaulted her once again, the lawsuit alleges.
Anand subsequently told her that they would both lose their jobs if she reported the incidents. After yet another incident of alleged sexual harassment in February, “Doe” sought leave of absence from Oracle and confided in her husband. He helped her to report Anand to Oracle and later to file a police report.
The Foster City police department in California referred the case to the District Attorney in San Mateo County for possible prosecution. However, Winer filed the lawsuit on behalf of the woman in the California Superior Court in Alameda County. It names both Oracle and Anand as defendants.
“Oracle takes any allegation of employee misconduct very seriously, and Oracle believes it has acted appropriately in this matter,” Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass said in a statement. “The facts do not support the allegations made in the case but it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” Glass said.
Winer said the plaintiff has been on leave from work since February and had to go through medical treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome.
According to the lawsuit, "Doe's" promotion was stopped by an Oracle director because of her lack of group involvement.
At that stage, she revealed her conflict with Anand but the director left her to cope with the problem and did not allegedly investigate the complaint. Nor did the company ever tell her what, if any action, they took against Anand or even if they believed her story, the lawsuit alleges.
Anand left Oracle after the woman first reported him.
According to industry reports, the case comes at a bad time for Oracle the world's No. 2 software maker.
The company is embroiled in a controversial hostile takeover bid against PeopleSoft, a business applications software maker, which has resisted the attempted takeover.