While the pandemic witnessed massive job losses and employees were often being forced to resign by companies, a widow of one such person who died of COVID-19 two months after he lost his job is fighting a unique battle with the company, demanding compensation and insurance benefits the family would have been entitled to, had he been allowed to serve the mandatory notice period.
Kameswari, a former teacher is shattered. Her 48-year-old husband, Ramesh Subramanian, an MBA who worked as a Project Manager died due to COVID-19 in June – less than two months after he was allegedly forced to resign by Synamedia Private Ltd, the company he worked for in Chennai. She has a son to look after.
The nightmare she says began on April 8th and 9th. “The HR connected with Ramesh on Zoom and told him he had to resign as part of their retrenchment drive.” Ramesh, she adds, pleaded with them “to allow him to serve the mandatory two-month notice period as given in his appointment order so he could find a new job.” A few days later the company asked him “to put in his papers or face termination which would jeopardise his career.” On the 13th, he gave his resignation letter and he was relieved on the 16th.
Ramesh, who earned around 30 lakh annually, Kameswari says was traumatised after he lost his job. Things turned worse after he contracted the virus within a month. Though the family spent 18 lakh for his treatment, he died on 11th June. Had he been allowed to serve the notice period as per the contract, she argues, “He would have been covered by the company’s term insurance, health insurance, and EPF insurance and the family would have got more than 1.5 crores in the event of this eventuality.”
She has sent a legal notice to the company demanding fair compensation. Controlling her emotions, she said “The company sees only the money component, what do they lose letting an employee serve the notice period? Situations like this uproot the family. I don’t want this to happen to anyone, That’s why I fight.”
The company has so far come forward to pay only a donation of Rs 2 lakh, which the family has not accepted.
Ramesh’s brother Kishore Subramanian says many corporates only defy the government directive asking employers to not sack employees amid the pandemic. He reiterates his brother was forced to resign. “If he had resigned on his own without serving the two-month notice, wouldn’t the company ask him to pay two months salary?”. He recollects, “My brother was crying, how will I pay my EMIs?”. He adds, “We are only demanding what he was deprived of. Why didn’t Synamedia let him be on their rolls for 2 months?”.
Synamedia denies Ramesh was forced to resign, instead the company claims Ramesh had resigned seeking immediate relief to take up “a better opportunity.” When asked why the company did not make him pay the mandatory two-month salary, the company’s senior HR person Mr Rajesh Kumaraswamy told NDTV, “We had taken a kind approach amid the pandemic. We in fact had paid 4-month salary to Mr Ramesh. Perhaps he did not let his family know about his decision to resign.” Denying any retrenchment of any employee, Mr Rajesh however concedes “there were many voluntary resignations from our company as many great opportunities opened for them.”
Ramesh’s family denies the company’s claim. They have also taken up this issue with the union labour ministry, which they say in a mail has directed the company “to settle the issue positively within stipulated time as per rule.”