Ex-employee testifies about sexual harassment by Afiniti’s founder Zia Chishti

02:30 PM | 17 Nov, 2021
Ex-employee testifies about sexual harassment by Afiniti’s founder Zia Chishti

Tatiana Spottiswoode, a former employee of a multinational data and software company Afinity, has testified about being sexually assaulted by employer Zia Chishti on a work trip.

The victim, a law student at Columbia Law School, narrated the ordeal that how she felt pressured into an illegitimate relationship by Zia Chishti – chief of US-based tech company – in front of Congress members.

The development came as the House Judiciary Committee considered legislation that would end forced arbitration for victims of sexual assault and harassment as it requires a worker to go through a private proceeding after bringing an accusation of workplace misconduct.

Former Afinity employee told the committee members that she first met the accused through her family. Chishti, who was 43 at the time, invited her on a ski trip when she was 21.

Delving into details, she mentioned that she had refused Chishti's invitation first but the latter insisted her to meet his nephew. The victim later learned that the Afiniti chief tricked her to the meeting as his nephew didn't exist. She added that Chishti lured her with an extravagant lifestyle as he expressed his feelings for the victim.

Ms. Spottiswoode, who was about 23 at the time, said she eventually dated him about five times over ten weeks, but eventually ended the relationship.

Later, Chishti encouraged her to join his multinational firm as he offered her a great career at his company. The victim added that she believed him as his former employer told her that he did not expect a sexual relationship.

She revealed that she signed a contract and joined the firm in 2016 – but mentioned that joining included a forced arbitration accord.

The victim testified that the Afiniti chief pressured into having physical contact with him on an overseas trip despite previously telling no such feeling and he even assaulted her on refusal.

Later, the victim said, Chishti started arbitration against her and her father discretely. In May 2019 her arbiter ruled in favour of Spottiswoode as she had been sexually harassed and assaulted by Chishti. She said she offered to pay $1m and drop the arbitration against her father if she erased the ruling.

Meanwhile, the tech firm owned by Chishti, who was born to American-Pakistani parents, said: “We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously and has investigated Spottiswoode’s claims with independent counsel and concluded that the arbitral decision she references was erroneous.

Zia Chishti, who has strong ties to Pakistan, strongly disputes all accusations against him. The tech entrepreneur was born in the United States while the company operated a call center and a number of employees in the South Asian country. He also met with Prime Minister Imran Khan when the latter visited the States back in 2019.

The tech firm, which employs former UK PM David Cameron as chair of its advisory board, developed software to match callers with call center agents.

The tech giant claims around 200 percent annual revenue growth and has been linked with a potential flotation next year in the US.

The harrowing claims threaten to create a new controversy for David Cameron following the collapse of finance firm Greensill.