We are a start up based in Karnataka, India with less than 20 employees. One of our founding partner has been involved in extramarital relation with an employee who is just a 22 year girl. Even after repeated attempts to communicate the unethical behavior we have been ignored and things have only gotten worse. They go out post lunch walks where people have seen them being romantic with each other. Pick and drop favors have been noticed by almost every employees in the office. Other than that they have been spending time outside working hours. Wife did reach out sensing things were different with him lately. However, he did convince her that they are just good friends. They have been the talk of the town. We are a small organization and this is giving a very wrong message to the entire company. We are unable to move legally since POSH canít be implemented here. We did have verbal communication with both parties and they have been denying any relationship. Now this Director has history of being behind females trying to message them late nights with an intention to start a romantic relationship. But no one is willing to come forward with it.
What measures can we take to protect our work culture? Or are there any law designed to act in sure circumstances. Please adviseÖ

From United States, Mountain View
Dinesh Divekar

Dear member,

Though you have raised your post, you have not written about your designation. This is because if one of the founding partners is involved in the amatory activities, what the other employees are supposed to do?

If two employees develop a romantic relationship, then it is their personal affair. What do other employees have to do with it? The loving pair is of educated adults. Let them use their discretion. Other employees's discretion demands neither to gossip about their relationship nor to become morale police! As long as the pair does not use the workplace for their romance, everything should be fine.

Having said that, I also wish to put forth devising a policy on workplace romance. Today's romantic relationship could become a potential case for sexual harassment in future. Therefore, both parties needed to be warned about the merits and demerits of the relationship. They need to be told that their energies need to be chanelised in customer satisfaction. Their coquetry could distract them, and the distraction, in turn, could result in workplace errors. Additionally, you also say that the woman employee has been extra favours. This violates the principles of equality.

However, who will give this warning or feedback? The ordinary employees cannot bell the cat. So the alternative left is feedback from other founding partners. But then why the other founding partner is keeping quiet? He/she is supposed to be more concerned than ordinary employees.


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore
Thank you for your feedback Dinesh. Being one of the founding partner we have tried all means to communicate effectively. However, there has been no change in their behavior and itís only turning messy. Now when you say they are educated adults does that mean anything should be acceptable? He isnít an employee and relationship is not between two employees here. Itís between a founding partner whoís 44 and a female whoís just 23 at the start of her career. This guy has been behaving tremendously rude towards almost all employees and the other directors since the day we communicated this message to him. It has resulted in employees being scared to interact with him and the other female around the workplace. Functioning effectively in an environment where such things mushroom is not the message that we want to give out to our employees or our clients. As a responsible individual we think one should have control on their senses and not misuse their power to influence new bees and be wrongfully involved with them.
My question is if we have any laws in places to act on it. Terminating employee is the quick and easy way out however if you read my previous post it says he has been trying to do this before with other female employees as well. We are just on a tight spot where we know things but unable to act or discipline him?
Are there any ways that HR can discipline him?

From United States, Mountain View
Dinesh Divekar

Dear member,

The root cause is the founding partner. Why not remove him? Will it be possible for you to return his investment?

As far as workplace romance is concerned, no law prevents from developing a romantic relationship. However, you can develop a code of conduct for workplace behaviour. However, being a founding partner, there is every possibility that he could violate it.

Lastly, if the founding partner is making sexual overtures against other woman employees, then the aggrieved women need to muster courage and give a formal complaint. However, the women employees need to provide material evidence also. On the strength of evidence, you can conduct an enquiry under the provisions of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, 2013. If the accused is found guilty, his services can be terminated. However, again as the person in question is a founding partner, how to keep him off from the office will be a challenge to you.

If you are an investor, then you can given a threat of withdrawing your investment from the company. Anyway, the prurient behaviour of the founding partner could jeopardise the company's future. Why not be proactive and move out?


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore

Here are some general suggestions:

Document the Behaviour:
Keep detailed records of specific incidents, dates, and any evidence you might have. This can include witness statements, photos, or any other relevant information. This documentation may be useful if legal action becomes necessary.

Implement a Clear Policy:
If you don't already have one, consider implementing a clear workplace policy that addresses relationships between employees, especially those involving a power imbalance, such as a supervisor and a subordinate. This can help set expectations and boundaries.

Speak to the Involved Parties Again:
Have a follow-up meeting with the individuals involved, reiterating the impact their behaviour is having on the workplace and expressing the need for it to stop. Document this conversation and make it clear that their actions are affecting the company's culture.

Seek Professional Advice:
Consult with an HR professional or an legal expect well versed in Labour Laws who can provide guidance on the specific employment laws in your region. They may be able to suggest appropriate steps or interventions.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP):
Consider offering an Employee Assistance Program that provides counseling and support services for employees dealing with personal issues. This can create a resource for individuals involved in inappropriate relationships and can be offered more broadly to all employees.

Education and Training:
Conduct training sessions on workplace conduct, ethics, and the impact of personal relationships on the workplace. This can help raise awareness and prevent similar situations in the future.

Encourage Reporting:
Establish a confidential reporting mechanism, so employees feel comfortable reporting inappropriate behavior without fear of retaliation. Make sure employees are aware of this option.

Legal Consultation:
While you've mentioned that POSH may not apply directly, consult with a legal professional to explore other legal options that may be available to address such workplace issues.


From India, Bangalore
Thank you Dinesh! We are trying to figure out ways to see if things can be improved. We all are emotionally invested and have history of being colleagues/friends for very long. Also, we were not aware of his behavior until now that things have been brought to light by few ex-employees that left the company solely because of him. Off course they didnít mention it during their exit interview.
At this juncture where we are growing as a company, we donít want to entertain such unethical practices and given that he is a leader should be the role model and guide to the team. Instead itís the other way around! This individual is very sharp in dealing with such situations primarily because he has in past been doing such things. Therefore, we are unable to confront him or provide him with any warning.
Itís very unfortunate that our laws have nothing to help us with such complex situationsÖ Specially when such things are only increasing with time in every organization.

Thank you once again !

From United States, Mountain View
Hi Dr.Raghunath,

Thank you for your valuable feedback! You clearly shed light on the matter at hand.
We have been trying to document everything as thatís the only resort we have at the moment. We did bring in policies and gave the message out loud to the employees however these individuals are not very bothered by it.
Letís see if things change for better in near future by implementing these tips and tricks.

Thank you once again!

From United States, Mountain View

Dealing with a situation where a leader's behaviour is negatively impacting the work environment can be challenging, but it's important to address such issues for the well-being of the team and the company's growth. Here are some steps you can consider:

Gather Evidence:
Collect concrete evidence of the leader's unethical behaviour. This could include witness statements, documentation, and specific examples of incidents. Having a well-documented case will strengthen your position when addressing the issue.

Anonymously Collect Feedback:
Encourage team members to share their experiences anonymously. This can help you gather more insights into the extent of the problem and the impact on the team. It's essential to create a safe space for employees to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation.

Conduct a Thorough Investigation:
Before taking any action, conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the allegations. This may involve speaking with current and former employees, reviewing relevant documentation, and considering any patterns of behavior.

Consult HR Professionals:
Seek guidance from HR professionals or legal experts who can provide insights into the best course of action based on your company's policies and applicable laws. They may also help you navigate potential legal implications.

Establish a Clear Code of Conduct:
Ensure your company has a well-defined code of conduct that outlines expectations for all employees, including leaders. This document can serve as a reference point when addressing inappropriate behavior.

Create Open Communication Channels:
Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting unethical behavior without fear of reprisal. This can be achieved through anonymous reporting systems or designated personnel who handle such issues confidentially.

Leadership Development and Training:
Provide leadership training to enhance the skills and ethical awareness of all leaders in your organization. This can help prevent similar issues in the future and promote a positive work culture.

Performance Reviews and Feedback:
Integrate evaluations of leadership behaviour into performance reviews. Constructive feedback and clear expectations can guide leaders toward more ethical practices.

Decision-Making Committee:
Establish a decision-making committee involving HR, legal, and senior leadership to collectively decide on the appropriate course of action. This ensures that decisions are well-informed and fair.

Consider Legal Advice:
If the situation escalates and legal implications become a concern, consider seeking advice from legal professionals who specialize in Labour law and that addressing such issues requires a careful and thorough approach. It's essential to prioritize the well-being of the team and maintain a commitment to ethical practices within the organization.

From India, Bangalore
Agarwal BD

The other thing could be that the HR can counsel the young employees. She can be told about his past records and make her talk to one or two ex-employees who have left due to his flirtish behavior. Hopefully good sense will prevail and the young employee will understand that this relationship is not serious.
From India, Kolkata

First, POSH does apply and needs to be implemented in your organisation.
Your failure to do so opens you up to criminal and civil liabilities.
Recently, Chennai High Court has issued a penalty of 1.5 crores against one company for this failure on a compliant by an employee. In your case, any of the ex-employees could file a complaint.

Your ability to take action under POSH against a co-founder is a problem, but if you dont, the matter can go to the Regional Committee and even become a criminal offence, which is a cognisably offence. So you need to explain to him that while his relationship with one girl is a private matter, for the rest of the people he is harassed, he can go to jail. Further, you as a co-founder can also go to jail for failure to protect the female employees.

One easy but bad way out is to inform the wife and pass on all the evidence as well as complaints of other employees on the matter. He will have to stop or may even have to leave the company soon after that.

From India, Mumbai
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