HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE
When we talk about harassment, the first thing that comes to our mind is sexual harassment; however, it is not limited to sexual harassment. Workplace harassment means harassment at any company, organization, or workplace by an employer, colleague, or any person at the office, which creates stress, anxiety, depression, guilt, and mental trauma that affect the person’s ability to work.
Let us first discuss harassment and the various types of harassment at the workplace, especially mental harassment, and what legal remedies are available.
WHAT IS HARASSMENT?
Harassment at the workplace creates an inure and hostile environment at workplace which discourages a person’s participation in work, thereby affecting their social and economic growth and development. It is considered a violation of a person’s right to equality, life, and liberty.
Harassment could be of various types, namely;
Workplace harassment could be discriminatory if it is carried out to differentiate a person and demean him or her based on their race, caste, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, etc.
Personal harassment may not be based on race, gender, or religion, but it is bullying another person in such a manner that it creates a negative impact on the mind of the person who is a victim of such harassment. For example, personal humiliation, offensive jokes, making critical remarks or passing inappropriate comments, ostracizing (excluding) behavior, intimidating tactics, or another action that affects the victim’s mental capacity.
Harassment that involves violence, threats, assault, or physical attacks is called physical harassment. It also includes physical gestures that vary from person to person, as an unacceptable act or makes uncomfortable for one person may not be the same for the other. For example, threatening behavior or gestures, destroying property or belongings to intimidate, a direct threat with intent to harm another, physical attacks including shoving, kicking, hitting, etc.
The harasser is in a higher position (manager, supervisor, etc.) and uses his power to bully the victim. This form is a widespread form of harassment at the workplace. For example, making excessive demand, which is impossible to fulfill.
Mental or Psychological Harassment
Mental or Psychological harassment is a result of frequent acts that directly or indirectly creates a detrimental impact on the person’s mind that defames that individual. Such harassment harms the well-being of the victim. It affects not only the physical health but also the social life of the victim. Psychological harassment at the workplace could be of any of the following examples; ostracizing or isolating the victim’s presence, discrediting, spreading rumors, belittling, opposing or challenging everything that the victim says, or any other acts that affect the thought of the victim.
Online harassment or cyber bullying means misbehaving or spreading gossips or lies about the victim on social media, spamming emails or messages to the victims, etc.
Sexual harassment means harassment that is sexual, including unwanted sexual advances, conduct, or behavior that has a negative impact and creates a hostile work environment and discomfort on the life of the victim. For example; sharing sexual photographs or pornography, inappropriate sexual touch or gestures, sexual jokes, comments, questions or talks, demand or request for sexual favor, making sexually colored remarks, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal acts of sexual nature that affects the mental health of the person.
Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
‘Quid Pro Quo’ means ‘this for that’ wherein the victim is offered job benefits or promotion in exchange for sexual favors. For example, job promotion, avoid termination or demotion, etc.
This is caused by a person who is from out the organization. Such a person would include a vendor, client, customer, or supplier of the company.
Abusive or Verbal Harassment
When a personality conflict at the workplace becomes a reason for verbal or abusive harassment. Verbal harassment is not illegal; however, it is often unlawful to aim at a person belonging to a protected class (such as race, religion, or gender). Such harassment creates a feeling of shame, guilt, or loss of passion among the victims.
Having talked about harassment, let us discuss mental harassment and the legal provisions that deal with mental harassment.
WHAT CONSTITUTE MENTAL HARASSMENT?
Any non-physical attitude or behavior that intimidates, controls, demeans or isolates another person through humiliation, fear, or degradation is considered mental harassment. Mental harassment can also be physical in extreme cases.
It results from frequent acts that directly or indirectly create a detrimental impact on the person’s mind that defames that individual. These acts may occur at an interval and may even seem harmless, but when it is clubbed together, it creates a destructive and impairing effect on the victim’s physical and mental health.
- Constant abuse, ostracizing or isolating the victim’s presence.
- Defaming or demeaning an individual in public.
- Discrimination on the ground of caste, age, sex, or marital status.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BULLIES AT WORKPLACE?
- Classify whether the harassment is sexual harassment or any other harassment.
- Learn to say NO. When you feel the incident is making you uncomfortable or is torturing, say ‘no’ to the person committing it and warn them about future consequences.
- Confront the harasser and show how you felt. Let the harasser know that you are not comfortable with the gestures or words and that it affects your health or is a highly unwelcomed act.
- Document the incident and keep a record of all the shreds of evidence to prove the incident’s occurrence.
- Be mentally prepared to face the possible inquiries, look for another job; there may be a situation that you may have to leave your current job.
- Talk to the HR or the Internal Committee about the incident of harassment.
LEGAL REMEDIES FOR HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE
Following are the remedies available under various laws:
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH) provides guidelines to be followed by the company.
- The employer must create an Internal committee to address the issues relating to harassment,
- Create an environment wherein the victim can freely share their grievances without any fear and get justice and most importantly, sensitize everyone towards equal treatment of men and women at the workplace,
- Assist and provide facilities to the internal committee in dealing with the complaints and conducting the inquiry,
- Conduct a workshop to create awareness about harassment and the consequences of harassment.
- It also states that if the employer does not comply with the law, they can be liable for a fine, extending to Rs. 50,000, and repeated non-compliance would attract a twice penalty, and further non-compliance would result in cancellation of license, withdrawal of registration of the business by the government.
- Section 354A of the India Penal Code deals with offenses related to sexual harassment, including physical contact, unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures, demand or request for sexual favors, showing pornography to a woman against her will, and making colored remarks.
- Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code states the punishment for defamations and a civil suit can be filed against the wrongdoer under the provision of the law of torts.
- Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code states whoever insults the modesty of women shall be punishable with simple imprisonment of three years and with a fine.
- Article 39(d) of the Constitution and Section 2 (h) of the Equal Remuneration Act 1976 states that all employees, whether male or female, should receive the same remuneration for any work of similar nature.
- Section 7-13 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 clearly states that deduction and extent of deduction to be made for employees. If there is any deduction outside of these sections, employees can seek legal remedies.
- Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 states about employment contracts and no discrimination have to be made on gender.
- Section 24 A of The Person with Disabilities Act, 1995 lays down the provision that no prejudice has to be made in the employment of disabled persons.
- Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 provides for women’s non-discriminatory treatment during pregnancy and includes maternity benefits to women employees.
- Article 42 and 43 of the Constitution gives to the State to give just and secure place of employment and further states that harassment at the workplace contravenes their right to live with human dignity.
Harassment at the workplace is a serious issue, don’t be a victim of crime. If you are facing any harassment, report it before it’s too late. There are various legal provisions to punish the wrongdoer. Every citizen has a right to live with dignity, fight for justice, and don’t let the wrongdoer misuse or take advantage of any other person.