IHCL examining allegations of sexual harassment against the top executive ,Rahul Pandit, the CEO of Roots Corporation

IHCL examining allegations of sexual harassment against the top executive ,Rahul Pandit, the CEO of Roots Corporation

NEW DELHI | MUMBAI,June1:: Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) is examining allegations of sexual harassment against the top executive of one of its subsidiaries, multiple people with knowledge of the issue have told ET. A female employee is believed to have filed a complaint against Rahul Pandit, the CEO of Roots Corporation citing inappropriate behaviour. Roots runs the Ginger brand of budget hotels and is a IHCL subsidiary.

The case was filed in March by the female employee who reported directly to Pandit. People close to the situation said that the complaint was also forwarded to executives at the HR department of Tata Sons, the holding company of IHCL.

Two people with direct knowledge of the matter said that Roots Corporation immediately set up a POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) committee and launched an investigation with internal and external members.

“The company has a strict code of conduct and accords the highest priority to the respect, security and dignity of all our employees. We are committed to providing a workplace that is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment, and the company has a strong mechanism for employees to escalate any such incident.

Given the legal restrictions, we cannot comment on any such matters,” a Ginger spokesperson said in an email response to ET. Pandit and Tata Sons did not respond to detailed questionnaires on the issue.

The committee has met both the complainant and Pandit and investigations are expected to be completed very soon. Before joining Taj in June 2015, Pandit was the managing director and CEO of The Lemon Tree Hotel Company.

He was one of the founder members of the budget hospitality company started by industry veteran Patu Keswani. This is Pandit’s second stint at IHCL after the year 2000.

This is the second major case of sexual harassment at the IHCL group in the past two years. Rakesh Sarna, IHCL’s outgoing CEO, was cleared of similar charges some weeks back by an internal committee.

Just a few days back, Sarna, who had turned around the Indian hospitality major, resigned citing personal reasons. As the CEO of Ginger Hotels, Pandit directly reported to Sarna.

Under Pandit, Ginger Hotels had a topline of Rs 141.58 crore and a reported loss of Rs 11 crore in FY16. Pandit crafted an aggressive expansion strategy to get back into the black which included expanding the number of rooms by 10,000 by 2022. Ginger now operates 39 hotels with more than 3,400 rooms across the country.

Experts say with rising awareness, increasing empowerment and a proactive women friendly approach taken by companies, more and more women employees are coming out and making complaints against erring seniors and colleagues.

The Tata group companies’ POSH policies strictly follow the prescribed framework of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, and the Vishaka guidelines provided by the Supreme Court.