UK man 'blackmailed' TCS with employee database

Jul 17, 2014, 06:40 IST | Ruhi Khan

Prashant Sengar, who was turned down for a job, sourced the database from an employee in India to prove his claims that the company favoured migrants; TCS, in turn, took him to court for his actions

London: A UK national procured employee information from an unknown source at one of the India offices of technology giant Tata Consultancy Services, in order to prove his allegation that the company was breaking visa norms and favouring migrant workers.

Pic for representation

The man, a restaurant owner, claims he was promised a job in the company, but that the employment did not materialise even after he pursued the case for months he says the job was offered to a migrant worker because they could be employed at a lower pay.

Demanding his position, he then wrote to the CEO of the company, revealing to him that he had access to their database, after which the company took legal recourse and approached the High Court in London. The court has ordered the man to return the documents to the organisation.

The genesis of the legal drama lies in the attempts of Prashant Sengar to gain employment in TCS in October 2013. Sengar owns a restaurant, Spicy Affair, in Leamington Spa where TCS has an office. The man claims he was offered a job, but that the company later discriminated against him by delaying the appointment and, ultimately, not making good on the said offer.

Sengar claimed senior officers at the company told him they didn’t hire him because they could take someone onboard at a lesser pay scale. TCS denies his claims and told the court that he has been pestering and troubling several of its employees for a job in TCS and that no job offer was ever made to him. They, however, accepted that due to his persistence he was only told that they would bear him in mind, should any suitable positions arise in future.

Sengar then approached senior TCS executives in UK, alleging that the company has been violating visa norms and that their policies were discriminatory favouring migrant workers who could work for low wages. He also wrote emails to Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of TCS, repeating his claims of discrimination and violation of immigration norms by TCS.

He wrote another mail on May 3, in which he demanded that he be given the position of manager at a salary of 55,000 pounds plus perks on a permanent basis, and also the formation of a committee to ensure immigration rules weren’t broken.

However, it was his email to Chandrasekaran dated May 18, 2014, that got the top brass worried. In it, Sengar wrote: “I have managed to get a full list of employees presently working in UK and America and have selected few for your reference.... This is just a sample and I have a list of 1023 employees just in UK who have been employed in Breach of Tier 2 ICT.”

He was referring to the intra-company transfer visa law, in which a firm first needs to ensure that a particular position cannot be filled by a local UK resident, before offering the job to a non-resident. TCS then approached Sengar through its solicitor by a letter dated May 29, as it was clear that he had managed to obtain access to confidential information on its Ultimatix database system.

Sengar refused to engage with them, after which the company approached the High Court on June 2; the hearing took place on June 6. TCS alleged that Sengar has been blackmailing them and that the court should order “requiring the delivery up of all property belonging to Tata.” Sengar’s contention was that he would need the information about the employees in his discrimination claim against TCS and that he had no other sinister motive.

After hearing the case based on TCS’s application for an interim injunctive relief, a judge ordered Sengar to return the confidential information in his possession (copy of the written judgment, which came out only last week, is with mid-day). Justice Simon Picken observed: “I am satisfied that it is at least arguable that Mr Sengar has already used the information in an attempt to blackmail Tata.

I am also satisfied that Tata is right to be concerned that Mr Sengar will wrongfully disclose the information to a competitor or headhunter.” The judge also stated that it would be a mistake to accept Sengar’s contention that he didn’t wish to misuse the information.

He also contended that Sengar wouldn’t lose out on valuable information by handing over the Ultimatix documents, since he could always obtain them later through disclosure a stage of litigation in which each party is supposed to provide to the other party, documents relevant to the case. And if they are not relevant, he won’t be at a loss anyway, the judge added.

Sourced from India
The company has about 3 lakh employees and operates in 46 countries, which rake in an annual revenue of nearly $13.5 billion.

An employee appearing on behalf of the company told the court that the information would be extremely valuable to a competitor or a headhunter seeking to poach Tata’s staff, or to obtain access to details of Tata’s clients and the scale of the work carried out by Tata personnel for those clients, since each employee is mapped to his/her “Project Details” and that information includes identification of the client.

Court proceedings showed that the data was obtained from an employee in India. The court however did not ask Sengar to identify the person who shared the crucial information but observed that “if necessary, Tata would have liberty to return to the Court to ask for an order requiring that the person’s identity should be revealed.”

Tata’s lawyer told the court “that damages would not be an adequate remedy for Tata, were Tata to establish a right to a permanent injunction at trial, since it would be very difficult to quantify what Tata’s losses would be, in the event that the property were provided to competitors or headhunters.” Their worries do not end here, as Sengar has initiated proceedings at the Birmingham county court for discrimination.

Company speak
A spokesperson for the company told mid-day, “TCS has obtained an interim injunction in the High Court of Justice in London against Mr Prashant Sengar. TCS does not intend to comment further on this ongoing litigation.”

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