Allegations of sexual harassment: Greenpeace India admits to "inadequate" action on complaint

Allegations of sexual harassment: Greenpeace India admits to "inadequate" action on complaint
Allegations of sexual harassment: Greenpeace India admits to "inadequate" action on complaint
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The News Minute | February 26, 2015 | 3.35 pm IST

Greenpeace India has issued a statement saying that a former employee who raised complaints of sexual harassment by her male colleague “deserves an apology”.

The environment rights group said it will take another look at the sexual harassment allegations made by a former employee, against certain other employees of the organization in a statement issued on Thursday evening. In a statement, Greenpeace India said that the employee had levelled allegations against her colleague in 2012, and which then not been "inadequately" dealt with.

The matter came to light on Wednesday, when screenshots of a Facebook conversation thread involving some former Greenpeace activists were posted on Twitter. These related to a conversation on alleged sexual harassment at the work place and Greenpeace’s alleged inaction on complaints which had begun several days earlier.

On February 19, a former employee of Greenpeace put out images of obscene messages her friend had received on the Facebook Messenger app for phones. Many of the messages spoke of sexual acts. The former employee Meera (name changed) said she wished she could do something about this person and asked suggestions on legal options as well. 

People who responded to the post made several suggestions. One of the persons who commented said he had never heard of such language being used and that it must be a malware or a virus. 

Meera responded saying she expected no less from him and that he did not understand the concept of consent as he had allegedly molested her in the past. 

What followed was a discussion about the work culture of Greenpeace India on the comment thread, and several of them were current or former employees at Greenpeace. 

One former employee extended support to Meera, saying that she was familiar with Greenpeace’s working atmosphere, which was allegedly not in favour of taking action when employees came forward with complaints of sexual harassment. 

A former employee with Greenpeace who left the organization in September 2013, told The News Minute that she knew of two complainants, one of whom is Meera. The other complainant, she claimed, had leveled allegations of sexual harassment against one of her colleagues in 2011, but no action had been taken by the management. 

On Thursday evening, Greenpeace tweeted a link to its statement on the issue and said that it was “wrong” and that it would make amends by taking another look at the concerns raised by the employee who is no longer with Greenpeace. 

The environment rights group said that it had “investigated” the complaint of the former employee, about an incident that happened in December 2012, and that “we thinks she’s right”. The statement also said that the organization was “very keen to fully and comprehensively address her complaint. She deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened”.

Read the full text of the statement here:

We are extremely concerned by the recent Facebook posts by former Greenpeace staff, and have investigated the claims.

One former female staff member expressed concern that a sexual harassment complaint was dealt with inadequetly. The episode happened in
December 2012. The staff member left Greenpeace about a year ago.

We have now looked again at what happened and we think she’s right, the complaint was not dealt with according to the high standards we hold ourselves to. We just weren’t diligent enough, and for that we owe her an apology. 

Greenpeace India is completely committed to equality at work and we have written to our former colleague saying we are very keen to fully and comprehensively address her complaint. She deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened.

Greenpeace India has women in many of the senior positions in the organisation. We have a gender specialist on our complaints committee. But two years ago our processes failed. Our former colleague was right and we were wrong. We have to hold up our hands and admit that.

Since 2003 the organisation has had a functional internal complaints committee as mandated by the Vishaka guidelines.
Subsequently the process has been implemented as mandated by the 2013 law.

We are committed to constantly challenging ourselves and evolving to uphold the highest internal standards. We will do better.

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