Maha Women Commission terms termination of an employee by Sakal Media Group as ‘illegal’

A former employee with the media group has alleged that she was fired on grounds of her being pregnant.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Article image

In 2018, a senior-level female employee at Sakal Media Group accused the company of firing her on grounds of her being pregnant. The employee in question, Tanvi Saxena, took up the matter with the Maharashtra State Women Commission (MSWC) in Mumbai, under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

Last week, on June 17, the Women Commission issued an order calling Saxena’s termination by Sakal Media Group as “illegal”. It asked that her termination be “nullified or cancelled”, and for the Labour Commission to “get her benefits as per the maternity benefits from the company”.

imageby :
imageby :

The Maharashtra State Women Commission order.

Sakal Media Group has rubbished the claim that Saxena was terminated for her pregnancy, stating the grounds of termination were Saxena’s poor performance. Speaking on the Women Commission’s order, Mahendra Pisal, Chief Operating Officer, Sakal Media Group, said, “The matter is subjudice and I will not make any comment on the issue.”


Tanvi Saxena joined the Sakal Media Group in June 2017 in the brand solutions department. Her appointment letter, which was accessed by Newslaundry, stated that her probation period would end on December 31, 2017. Saxena claims that her reporting manager verbally told her she would then be confirmed at the post she was hired in, that of Brand Solutions Head.

In January 2018, Saxena says she discovered she was pregnant and says that she informed her reporting manager and assured that she would continue working.

On January 11, she received an email from the HR team with the subject line “confirmation after probation”. The email detailed the “beginning of confirmation procedure” and informed Saxena that her confirmation will be based on her performance feedback. On April 11, Saxena says she was summoned by the HR team, for a “personal discussion”. “They asked me for my resignation, citing that they’re downsizing manpower. They didn’t mention anything related to my performance.” 

Saxena contends that in subsequent meetings she was asked to resign, failing which she would be let go off with immediate effect for bad performance. She also claims her reporting manager hadn’t told her that her performance was unsatisfactory. “Not a single communication of any kind—verbal or written—regarding my performance took place. And then suddenly I was told to resign. There was no performance evaluation or formal process or documentation. There was no chance for me to understand or respond…”

On April 27, 2018, Saxena sent Sakal Media Group a legal notice. On May 10, 2018, Sakal Media Group, through its legal team, responded to Saxena’s legal notice, saying her probationary work experience was unsatisfactory, and that Saxena had “pleaded” to retain her job and extend her probation period. 

The response from Sakal’s lawyer called Saxena’s pregnancy “purported”: “My client [Sakal] emphatically states since your client never informed Mr Shetty or Ms Munde [a junior HR employee] about her purported pregnancy her allegation that she was ready and willing to work and continue to work’ is absolutely baseless and risible. My client vehemently denies that any duress was at all created on your client on the said day to resign.”

On October 24, 2018, in response to a notification from the Women Commission, the Sakal group produced Saxena’s performance evaluation records in front of the commission. The evaluation and appraisal procedure is usually carried out online at Sakal. A set procedure is in place: the employee is informed about it; if their performance is bad, s/he is told and put on an improvement plan with his/her acknowledgement. This was confirmed by another employee at Sakal.

In Saxena’s case, the records produced to the commission were handwritten, though it’s supposed to have occurred online, and does not carry her signature or the date. Newslaundry has accessed these records. Saxena alleges that they are “totally fabricated”.   

Saxena says, “Throughout my pregnancy, I fought the case and I’m still fighting. I ran between Pune and Mumbai even when I was seven months pregnant and also when my daughter was 40 days old. I was under immense pressure to fight for my rights … This fight isn’t about money or anything else—this is about my self-respect and self-esteem. During my pregnancy, doctors advised rest as much as possible whereas I was running from pillar to post … Now that period is over and I have a kid. Now I am free to fight them tooth and nail.”

She adds: “They have put a tag of non-performer on my career just because they want to hide the discrimination done by them because of my pregnancy.”

Women and child rights lawyer, Rama Sarode, says, “…to suddenly terminate is a clear example of discrimination. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and consider that she’s been removed because of her performance, was there any kind of communication to her from the organisation? Because she is pregnant and they terminated her giving the reason of performance, this is definitely discriminatory and not the right way to deal with it.”

As things stand now, both Sakal Media and Saxena will have to wait for the Labour Commission to gives its verdict on the case.


We take comments from subscribers only!  Subscribe now to post comments! 
Already a subscriber?  Login

You may also like