New Delhi: Disgraced IT executive Phaneesh Murthy and his former employer iGate Corp will be sued by the firm's investor relations head for alleged sexual harassment, the victim's law firm said on Friday.
The California-based law firm, Aiman-Smith & Marcy, said that iGate's head of investor relations Araceli Roiz was pregnant with Murthy's child and it planned to sue both Murthy and iGate for alleged sexual harassment.
"On behalf of Roiz, we are contemplating next steps, which will certainly include court action against Murthy and iGate," it said, adding the Fremont, California-based company, was liable for the conduct of its CEO.
The law firm, however, said it will wait for outcome of an outside probe ordered by iGate into Roiz's claims of sexual harassment by Murthy before suing the company. When contacted, Murthy told: "There are always two sides to the truth and now that the matter is definitely heading to court, I can't comment anymore."
iGate earlier this week terminated Murthy's contract for not reporting a relationship with Roiz. Murthy, one of the industry's best-known executives, was forced to quit India's second-biggest software company Infosys in 2002, following a sexual harassment lawsuit, which was settled out of court.
In what could be fresh trouble for iGate, another law firm said it has been asked by the company's investors to probe if the firm violated federal securities laws.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy, which represented Reka Maximovitch and Jennifer Griffith in the previous sex harassment lawsuits against Murthy, said Roiz remains an employee of iGate and is on medical leave at present.
On Murthy's claims that Roiz was engaging in "extortion" by bringing this case against him, the law firm said, "Murthy's comments are defamatory and a despicable attempt to 'blame the victim', who only wants to somehow continue her career and support her child.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy said that Murthy told the iGate board of his relationship with Roiz only after she informed him that she will be taking legal action against him.
"When he discovered this (that Roiz was pregnant), Murthy pressured Ms Roiz to have an abortion. When she refused, he told her to leave the company, quietly, to protect his position as CEO," it said.
Murthy had immediately after his sacking stated that he was in relationship with Roiz for "few months" and the sexual harassment case against him was an extortion attempt. The law firm claimed Murthy began pursuing Roiz shortly after she joined iGate in May 2010 and insinuated himself into her personal life using the pretext of business necessity.
While sacking Murthy, iGate had said that an outside probe, which is continuing, had not found any violation of the company's harassment policy.
"We do not believe a full, impartial, investigation can possibly result in this conclusion, but we note that, according to iGate, its investigation is continuing. We hope that iGate will take appropriate responsibility in this matter and that it can be concluded on that basis," the law firm said.
Meanwhile, iGate's investors have hired a law firm, Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, to ascertain whether the company and its employees violated federal securities law. "Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, LLC is investigating potential claims on behalf of purchasers of the securities of iGATE Corporation. The investigation focuses on whether the Company and its executives violated federal securities laws," the law firm said in a release.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy said it has been chosen by Roiz as it has in the past had achieved in getting its clients, some of who were Murthy's victims, compensated. "Murthy has, astonishingly, attempted to gain sympathy based on his own prior bad actions.
"Roiz selected the law firm, Aiman-Smith & Marcy, based upon the firm's excellent reputation as vigorous advocates for victims of employment discrimination and its prior success in getting compensation for some of Murthy's previous victims," the law firm said.
The law firm said when Roiz refused to go for abortion, he tried to force her to leave iGate and keep the relationship a secret. "It was not until after Roiz refused to do so and informed him that she would be seeking legal representation and her lawyers contacted Murthy's counsel that he reluctantly informed the Board of the relationship, just before the Board would have learned on its own from other sources," it claimed.
Although, Roiz's nominal supervisor was iGate’s CFO Sujit Sircar, however, as Sircar was based in India, Murthy was her day to day supervisor. She worked in Investor Relations, the firm said. "In his role as Roiz's supervisor, Murthy, as he had with his previous victims, insinuated himself into Roiz's personal life using the pretext of business necessity. In this way, Murthy was able to induce Roiz into behaviour and action that she would have found unthinkable at the beginning of her employment," the law firm said.
"The CEO of any company, as Murthy was here, has tremendous economic and personal power over his subordinates, it said, adding "Thus, Roiz was dependent on her continued employment for her basic living expenses and, further, Murthy conditioned her further employment and career advancement opportunities on her entering into a relationship with him which, eventually and reluctantly, she did."
The firm claimed that as a result of "Murthy’s influence over Roiz, she continued the relationship with him and ultimately, Roiz became pregnant with Murthy's child". "When he discovered this, Murthy pressured Roiz to have an abortion. When she refused, he told her to leave the company, quietly, to protect his position as CEO," it has claimed.