Physical, Mental and Sexual harassment at workplace against men and women - Know the laws against harassment and discrimination of an employee in India
Author : MyLegalWork Staff
‘Harassment’ is any kind of intentional behaviour meant to upset, offend or cause disgrace to a person. It is just one of the many prejudices that employees face in their professional environment throughout all industries. Recently many women in the startup industry are standing up and speaking against this ‘work-practice’. However, women are not the only ones who face such harassment at work, though it can be argued that they are the most affected by harassment. Many men and women face harassment by their superiors or colleagues for a slew of reasons. This is a result of personal bias seeping into the work ethic that employees of a company must ideally follow.
One needs to understand that these instances of harassment at a place where people come to earn their livelihood have a deep and lasting psychological effect on them. Not only that, but many employees leave their jobs sick of the demeaning environment that they have to sit through (without complain) every single day.
It is important that everyone should be aware of and recognise behaviours that constitute harassment at work and ensure that such practices are not acted upon or cut short as soon as experienced. Below we have tried to enumerate common types of harassment that exist at the workplace and how to identify them:
1) Physical Harassment at Workplace :
- Using of physical threats and acts of violence by a boss/ manager/ colleague
- Bullying, pushing or shoving for no reason
- Physical abuse, deliberate fist fights, slapping, punching, etc.
2) Mental and Psychological Harassment at Workplace :
- Employee being sustained from general holidays and asked to work on vacation days or after work hours;
- Insulting employees or punishing them with an intention to make one inferior or to humiliate;
- Setting up unreasonable deadlines for the work;
- Emotional abuse in way of threats of dire consequences by superiors or fellow colleagues;
- Demeaning someone for their capabilities (in private or in front of colleagues).
3) Sexual Harassment at Workplace :
Sexual harassment of an employee means indulging in acts to coerce or intimidate the employee to accept sexual favours or making unwelcome sexual advances towards them. Some examples include:
- Unsavory remarks or unwelcome sexual overtone in any manner such as over telephone (obnoxious telephone calls) and the like;
- Create a hostile or offensive work environment or threatening if sexual favours are not granted;
- Jokes causing or likely to cause awkwardness or embarrassment;
- Sexual innuendos and taunts;
- Gender based insults or sexist comments;
- Displaying pornographic or other offensive or derogatory pictures, cartoons, pamphlets or sayings;
- Forcible physical touch, inappropriate touching or molestation;
- Outraging or insulting the modesty of a female employee at the workplace.
4) Discrimination at Workplace :
- Discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, creed, gender, age, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status;
- Denying an opportunity or not considering one equally competent for the work because of biased opinions and prejudices;
- Discrimination against differently abled people, or if a woman is pregnant;
- Harassment for a previous criminal record, whose punishment one has already suffered.
Laws against Physical, Mental or Sexual Harassment :
- One can report the harassment to a police station by filing a First Information Report (FIR). Physical harassment and threats to bodily injury are criminal offenses and are punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Sexual harassment against women is punished under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and non-sexual harassment cases are protected under Labour Laws, and Law of Torts (defamation).
- Demanding sexual favors from an employee despite a clear indication of their disinterest also punishable under the Indian Penal Code Section 354 (A). Further, if a woman’s clear refusal to a sexual favor is dealt with threat or an attempt to create a hostile work environment for her, this is also punishable under Indian Penal Code Section 503.
- Asking for sexual favors in exchange for salary, work promotion or benefits is also an act of sexual harassment and is punishable under the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.
Laws against Discrimination :
- Discrimination on the basis of disability is protected under Section 24Aof The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995
- Discrimination of pregnant women is protected by law under Maternity Benefits Act, 1961.
- Under the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, no organisation is allowed to make unreasonable or unauthorized deductions in the salary of an employee. An organization with less than 1000 workers is supposed to give the salary by the 7th day of the month and an organization having more than 1000 is supposed to pay the salary by the 10th day of the month. If any organisation does not follow the rule, this is reportable and punishable.
- According to the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, it is the duty of the employer to not discriminate and pay equal wages irrespective of the gender of the employee for a work of similar nature.
- Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code states defamation as criminal wrong. Defamation is also handled under the Law of Torts, so a civil suit for damages can also be instituted against the offender.
What to do if you feel you are the victim of workplace harassment?
If you are a victim of harassment, you must stand up for yourself. Generally harassment and discrimination becomes worse over time because the perpetrator becomes emboldened by the silence of the victim. The first step can be as simple as going to the HR department to file a formal complaint. Later on, if the problem still persists, you can file a complaint with the police and take legal action against the offender in accordance to the laws against harassment and discrimination as the case may be.
You can read more in our article about Sexual Harassment .
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