Workplace harassment and discrimination are issues plaguing the private and public sectors.
There is no comprehensive legislation in India that protects employees and employers against workplace harassment unless it is sexual or about persons with disabilities.
Hence, internal policies work with the judiciary to address these subjects.
The workplace includes any regular places of work, including transportation provided by the employer.
The Sexual Harassment of Women Act
The Sexual Harassment of Women Act, 2013, is the existing framework defining the complaint and inquiry mechanism that new-age employers are adapting to handle workplace cases.
While the SHW Act is mostly oriented to women being vulnerable to discrimination and chauvinism at work, several companies base their policies on gender-neutral grounds.
The Act extensively defines incidents of harassment.
The basis of evidence for an offense is –
- Unconsented physical advances or contact
- Demand sexual favors
- Vulgar remarks
- Preferential treatments and unequal pay for equal work based on social status, gender, religion, or caste
- Threatening of present or future employment status
- Public humiliation
- Aggravating a hostile work environment
No Gender Discrimination
The ERA ensures that men and women are treated and paid equally for contributing the same amount of work.
Moreover, women should not face any discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotions, and transfers.
Women employed in labor-intensive sectors such as construction sites and factories are entitled to lesser working hours than their male counterparts are.
Process of the complaint and disciplinary action
Employers must instate an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to investigate and resolve harassment complaints at the workplace.
The ICC must include a senior woman employee as a presiding officer, two employees committed to stand against workplace harassment, and an external member from a non-government organization to provide external counsel on harassment and discrimination.
The outer member is usually a social worker with experience and familiarity in labor, service, and law.
Companies’ internalized policies address all cases of general issues (as long as they do not fall under criminal offenses).
These policies must clearly state the boundaries beyond which an advance or event is harassment and what disciplinary measure should follow.
The SHW Act, in tandem with the RPD and HIV Act, ensures standards for secure access to the workplace for women, men, having or not having any ailment or disability.
The HIV Act also mandates healthcare services and a healthy environment to prevent occupational risks from HIV exposure.
Employers structure policies to take action against any event identified as an incident of harassment.
Organizations also face penalties for non-compliance with the law.
The Government may revoke their license or suspend business activities until the shortcomings are resolved.
Anyone can approach the ICC with their complaints.
Workers faced with unfair labor practices can approach the labor court for resolution.
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