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Harassment by employer: what actions can you take?

Definition of harassment encompasses all types of offensive behavior which is intended to upset or show disgrace to another individual. Any behavior of a person, a group of people, colleagues, neighbors and even the boss or supervisor are also included in harassment and these are all punishable offense. In India there are several strict bullying in the workplace laws and regulations levied by the legal system. These laws are supposed to address all types of workplace harassment including discrimination, sexual nuisance and psychological irritation caused by the employer.

When kids bully each other in the school, they are blamed for misconduct and punished mercilessly. However some adults too have the same habits of bullying their colleagues and sub-ordinates and for this they barely get the same punishments. There is no one to throw an abusive and rude employer out of the office because he growls at his employees in the most ghastly manner and makes them work till their last breath (obviously after regular working hours). As a matter of fact, many employers start considering themselves the GOD of the office who can act according to his own whims and fancies towards his/her employees.

Discrimination at workplace is possibly the commonest form of harassment that most office goers have suffered at least once in their professional life. Discrimination can be made on the basis of complexion, religion, age, gender and origin. Mostly women suffer from sexual harassment which can be as fatal as affecting their physical and psychological health. Following are some common example of workplace harassment:

  • Dispersion of malevolent and untrue rumors, scandal or innuendo at the workplace.
  • Isolating an individual socially and professionally in the office.
  • Threatening a person or dominating him/her unfairly.
  • Deliberately discouraging one or hindering his/her job.
  • Physical abuse or intimidating someone with abusive languages.
  • Eliminating one from his roles and responsibilities without any reason.
  • Altering instructions and guidelines constantly.
  • Imposing unrealistic deadlines intentionally to make an individual fail.
  • Holding back important information or tenaciously providing wrong information.
  • Cracking offensive jokes verbally or in written, especially in front of or about female colleagues.
  • Sneaking into someone’s personal life, spying or pestering him/her.
  • Causing unnecessary pressure on a particular person by assigning heavy workload when others are free.
  • Making on sit idle without any work which is also a way to create mental pressure on a worker. Often companies take this way to make their employees surrender for voluntary retirement schemes.
  • Screaming or showing vulgarity to an employee.
  • Intentionally and unreasonably criticizing an individual on regular basis.
  • Ridiculing one’s opinions.
  • Unjustifiable punishment for trifles.
  • Holding back deserved leaves, promotions and training. blocking applications for training, leave or promotion
  • Meddling with one’s personal belongings behind his/her back.

When any of the above happens to an individual, it indicates that he/she is falling prey to employee harassment. Be it the employer or co-workers, there are legal terms via which the offenders can be punished.

Indian constitution guarantees gender, racial and religious equality as the ‘Fundamental Right’ of the residents of the country in Part III, Articles- 14, 15, 16 which implies for the workplace as well. Hence one faces discrimination by the employer because of his/her race, complexion, gender, caste or origin; he/she can immediately seek legal advice by consulting with a lawyer.  The ‘Directive Principles of State Policies’ of Part IV encompasses the cultural and socio-economic rights of Indian citizens.

Women suffering sexual harassment could seek help from the law as well as report to women’s rights organization. Human Rights Commission of India can also help in such cases. If the employer breaches a contract signed between the employer and the employee and terminates one without notice, the defender can file lawsuit against the company.

But till the time, employees and workers do not become aware of their fundamental employee rights, it is almost impossible for the law and order system to protect them from the offensive employer activities. Also the workers of any company, factory or organization should have mutual integrity which will help them fight such issues more effectively.