Cognizant seeks two weeks to reply to employees' complaints on mass layoffs

Cognizant Technology Solutions' (CTS') management representatives have sought two weeks time from the Telangana government's joint commissioner of labour (JCL) to get back with a comprehensive reply on the allegations about forced resignations at their campuses being levelled by a group of employees.

JCL R Chandrasekharam on Thursday held a joint meeting with the management and employees of CTS on a representation given by eight employees on May 8 seeking the departments' intervention over what they termed as illegal layoffs.

"I have tried to understand the problem by speaking to both the parties. The management has requested two weeks time to furnish a detailed reply on the issue. The management also said that these eight employees were not a part of the annual layoffs and, therefore, their cases should be treated separately," Chandrasekharam told Business Standard. The officer also said he was reviewing the case of each complainant individually.

A five-member management team, including a vice president rank executive of the company, attended Thursday's joint meeting. The next meeting is scheduled to be held on May 26.

During the meeting, the management representatives told the JCL that there was no unusual spurt in the number of employees leaving their jobs in the company and the layoffs were being effected only in case of under performance, sources said.

The employees, who were signatories of the May 8 representation, told Chandrasekharam that they were being forced to resign from their jobs irrespective of their performance and this must be stopped.

"We have asked for justice and nothing else. Hundreds of employees, not just eight of us, were being forced to resign from their jobs without any basis," an employee, who has attended the meeting, told Business Standard on the condition of anonymity.

He argued that if under-performance was such a big issue in the company, it should screen a candidate ten times before offering him or her a job instead of issuing termination orders later. "We were forced to leave our jobs because the company has less number of projects in hand, that is the real reason," the employee said.

In response to the complaints made by these employees, the management representatives have told the JCL that they would verify the facts related to their individual cases and will get back with a reply. Three of the eight employees were 'forced to submit their resignations' while the remaining five members were yet to get any notices, according to Chandrasekharam.

Earlier, those who were asked to submit their resignations have claimed that they got good ratings in the appraisals earlier and some of them had even won appreciation and awards for their good work. Citing these claims, Forum For IT Employees (FITE), which has been spearheading the campaign against 'illegal layoffs' in IT companies, alleged that in the name of restructuring, employees were forced to sign a voluntary resignation letter so that it cannot be claimed as termination.

"Because of this, the employees are not getting the compensation they are eligible for. Also, the employees are being threatened that their names would be blacklisted and they many not be able to find another job in any IT company," the forum's representatives said in their representation.

Every year, CTS conducts its annual appraisal process based on self-evaluation and feedback from the supervisor of a particular employee. They are distributed across four buckets, or performance grades, following the appraisal: Level-1 for someone who exceeds all expectations (the highest), Level-2 for an employee who exceeds most expectations, Level-3 for those who meet all the expectations and Level-4 for those who meets some of the expectations (the lowest).

Under the bell-curve-evaluation appraisal process, 10 per cent of the employees would fall into the first bucket, and 10 per cent of the employees would fall into the second bucket, while 60 per cent of the workforce would fall in the third bucket, leaving the remaining 20 per cent in the lowest category, according to the forum of IT employees.

"The way the allocation happens is not at all transparent and this is irrespective of the performance of the employees. Actually, the performance improvement programme (PIP) should enable the Level-4 employees to perform better. Most of the IT companies, including Wipro, TCS, Infosys, Google, and Microsoft, have moved out of this bell curve evaluation appraisal process as it produces a lot of errors and never yields progressive performance," FITE activists argued.

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