Workplace harassment: Story of a ‘wrecked’ Kashmiri techie

admire Google because at one time I felt the company gave direction to my dreams but it didn’t love me the way I loved it. Firms don’t have a heart, but workers do.

These are the words of a young Kashmiri Zahid Showkat Mir who allegedly faced harassment and discrimination at his office, Google India, Gurgaon.

After the Google authorities denied him help, accused him more, he approached its Head Office, spoke to lawyers and tied hopes to the Human Rights Organisations and media. However, he says that in front of Google, an American multinational technology company that specialises in Internet-related services and products, approach and its huge army of lawyers, he remains helpless.

“The reason I want my story to be out is that it brings a little security to me. I want the world to know what happened to me. I may get lawyers who won’t charge me fees. Then I can launch a prosecution against Google and its officers (Serco),” said Zahid, saying that he had been struggling for about 2 years to put his story out but failed due to lack of support and finance required to fight Google.

How Zahid ended up here?

Zahid lives in Srinagar’s Lal Bazaar area and calls himself a fun and peace loving person. He told this reporter that his family is financially stable. After MBA in Marketing (2011-2012) and subsequent marketing stint in Delhi, “Google happened.”

He and his fellows were hired as a batch via Serco Global Services. He spent ‘good’ 18 months there starting from January 2014.

Zahid would work as an Online Strategist at Google India’s office, Gurgaon. For the first three months, he was in a learning curve. In the fourth month, he had started to perform after which he was shifted to Google Rolta office along with his batch which changed everything for him.

In Sept 2014, his office landline was “plastered with a note: Hindustan Zindabad“. He has photographic proof for the same.

Zahid alleges that this was the note left at his news desk at his workplace

According to Zahid, his complaints were not really entertained by the authorities there. The Reporting Manager in the office, Gaurav Jain, as Zahid said, had ‘ridiculed’ him after he had brought the issue in his notice.

Following this incident, instead of helping him, he was handed a ‘direct third level’ performance based warning letter. “I wasn’t responsible for it. To cover up for the illegalities Google Rolta had itself committed, they fixed the blames on me. The evaluation date was January 25, 2015 while the audit date was January 26, 2015,” he said.

“Anyone familiar with the public holiday system in India would know that in the year 2015, January 25 fell on a Sunday and January 26 was India’s Republic Day. No offices are open or operational on these days in India. I was handed a warning letter at Google Rolta in a room booked by Google ETO after what could be a complaint from Google India and was informed it was a ‘gift’ for me on Republic Day,” added Zahid.

He also said that Google External Telesales Operations’ (ETO) Divisional Manager Thomas Brat had come for a three-day professional visit to Google Rolta. On the last day of Brat’s visit, the whole team was gathered in the conference room for an interactive session.

“Gaurav Jain invited everyone except me but I wanted to introduce myself to Brat so I tried to enter the room. Another Google ETO manager Vishal Vaid tried to stop me and told me that you will pelt stones at Thomas, that’s why you will not enter the room,” shared Zahid.

He maintained that he would often be taunted and asked to say ‘Hindustan Zindabad’.

“If you don’t say Hindustan Zindabad (‘long live India’), your sale won’t be updated,” he said that he would be told this at his office.

Zahid also shared an anecdote as to how he was stopped from coming to a pool party of Serco and Google India after it had over achieved the revenue target ‘because of him’.

“We will break your bones if you come to the party,” Zahid said that he was told this at his office.

Zahid had not discussed the problems he was facing with his family. However, he was left with no option when he ‘was made to exit’.

“I couldn’t say it all to my mother. There was only one guy there, Kamran. He was a Muslim. He is probably from Lucknow. He supported me then. Nobody else,” he shared.

Recently, he has shared a video, telling the tale of his harassment in which he writes, “I was threatened to resign along with a written confession that I was engaged in an illegal practice. I was threatened, harassed and cornered. My Google Access Card was snatched. I was asked to leave Google premises. My employee details were erased by Google’s Mountain View, CA 11 days prior to my resignation. My dues remain unpaid. I was blacklisted by Google. My career is wrecked. I raised the issue with Google’s leadership in California. There was no positive response.”

After coming back to Kashmir, he worked as a trainer in Kangan for 3 months. Mir could not show his Google experience in his resume as according to him his issue is ‘still under dispute’. “I got the job here because of my MBA but that doesn’t wash Google’s hands off the issue. Now I am facing Post traumatic job harassment,” said Zahid.

“I am a peace loving person. I don’t appreciate violence of any kind. But the only mistake I make in this case was that I stayed silent which escalated the issue further. But, I was pressurised. I had to save my job and there was also a threat to my life. Exceptions are there but we cannot really trust anyone there.”

Zahid has so far approached Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), lawyers and various local and Delhi media organisation but according to him, “Nobody is interested in his story.”

“I had heard that (NRLN founder) Colin Gonsalves helps Kashmiris. I approached him. He called me to Delhi. And there they told me that they don’t have sources to go against Google. They just wasted my time. I contacted my lawyers. Google has an army of lawyers. I cannot afford to fight against it,” he said.

After a series of e-mails, a Google employee attributing the reply to Google Spokesperson, wrote, “Mr Mir was not, at any time, employed by us nor on our payrolls. Having said that Google is committed to providing a safe and conducive work environment for everyone. Towards this at the time of his departure from the payroll of our vendor he had raised the issue directly to us and at that time we had, as our records indicate resolved the issue in accordance with our standard policies and procedures and to his satisfaction.”

However, Zahid is far from being satisfied. Even after two long years have passed, he hardly finds takers of his story.

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