Utopeia, the agency that has for the last few weeks been embroiled in staff issues centering around allegations of sexual harassment against one of the agency's board of directors, Sudarshan Banerjee, has issued a new statement detailing what it says it "its side of the story for those who wish to listen."
The statement is signed by Banerjee, Krishnaraj Bhat and Krishna Padhye, Utopeia's three remaining managing partners following the recent resignations of Mitali Srivastava Hough and Sean Colaco.
Srivastava released a statement this week following her resignation, stating that she had resigned "in protest at the dismissive attitude of the leadership towards the alleged survivors that came forward as part of #MeToo". Utopeia's latest statement in response confirms that Sean Colaco resigned "in solidarity with her". Neither resigned as directors of Utopeia and continue to be shareholders, according to the agency's statement.
The statement from Utopeia, which was released on 15 November, states that Banerjee and Srivastava were sent on leave by the enquiry committee when the investigation began. The duo were being investigated after allegations were made against them sexually harassing team members. Four posts appeared on social media between 8-10 October against Banerjee. One post appeared against Srivastava on 11 October on Medium.
Also sent on leave during the time was Paramita Banerjee, head HR, and wife of Sudarshan Banerjee. The reason for this according to the statement was to 'save her from emotional distress'.
The media statement from Utopeia mentions that the agency or the enquiry committee didn't receive any complaint against Banerjee till 31 October. On 27 October, Banerjee had issued a public statement denying the allegations against him. He had stated that he had initiated legal processes through the open letter.
The agency went ahead and reinstated Banerjee because the enquiry committee 'didnt have the means and expertise to carry out a police investigation and trace the source of the four posts that appeared on social media'. He resumed office on 12 November along with his wife and the agency's HR head Paramita Banerjee.
The statement further adds that the enquiry committee received a formal complaint of sexual harassment against Srivastava from an existing male employee. An external HR consultant was hired for this. The mail from the male employee was forwarded to Srivastava. The external HR wrote out a mail on 1 November to treat the matter as 'closed' because the complainant supposedly did not want to take further action. Colaco also insisted that the enquiry against Srivastava should be closed and the way foward was not discussed. Srivastava was also asked to resume duties.
When the trio were back, Srivastava and Colaco wanted Banerjee to step down from the position of chairman of the agency. Bhat and Padhye opposed this leading to a deadlock. The statement also mentions that the duo wanted the head of HR to resign too as they believed there was a 'conflict of interest'.
The statement further reveals that Padhye was 'disgusted by the attitute of Srivastava and Hough' and decided to resign as managing partner of the agency. A day later Srivastava resigned. On 13 November, Colaco also tendered his resignation.
Banerjee and Bhat accepted the resignations of Srivastava and Colaco while Padhye was asked to reconsider his decision. He did so and withdrew his resignation.
The statement aloso mentions that over the last year, there have been several HR complaints from the direct subordinates of Srivastava. There has also been performance related complaints against her. Claims of a client also terminating their association with the agency because of this have been made. As chairman, Banerjee has pulled up Srivastava on the performance and HR issues.
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