1. Brief Description of Anti-Discrimination Laws
India does not, in the context of private sector employment, have a comprehensive specific legislation that addresses discrimination and harassment at the workplace, except in relation to sexual harassment. The Indian judiciary has, over the years, taken steps to protect employees in India in instances of discrimination and harassment. While there is no specific legislation that addresses general discrimination and harassment issues in the workplace, please note that most new-age employers in India already cover all these subjects comprehensively as part of their internal policies.
2. Extent of Protection
Male and female employees who perform similar tasks must be paid equal wages, and also contains provisions that prohibit employers from discriminating against women in matters of recruitment, promotions and transfers. Further, women employed in primarily physical labour, such as in factories and construction sites, are legally entitled to lesser working hours than male employees. In addition, it is mandatory for listed companies and large public companies to have at least one female director. The law also prohibits discrimination against any workman filing charges or testifying against an employer in any inquiry or proceeding relating to any industrial dispute or discriminating against workmen by reason of them being members of a trade union.
3. Protections against Harassment
In general, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 (“SHWW Act”), prohibits sexual harassment at the workplace. The SHWW Act defines “sexual harassment” to include any of the following unwelcome acts or behavior: (i) Physical contact and advances; or (ii) A demand or request for sexual favors; or (iii) Making sexually colored remarks; or (iv) Showing pornography; or (v) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. The SHWW Act also identifies certain circumstances which, if occurring in conjunction with sexual harassment as defined in the SHWW Act, would be significant evidence that an offence has been committed.
4. Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
In the context of private sector employment, there is no comprehensive legislation governing the employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to employees based on religious practices or disability. However, many employers already have in place internal policies wherein the employee is given an option to choose two holidays a year which are of his choice with due consideration being given to his/her religion. Further, many companies have provided ramps and parking lots specially dedicated to disabled persons. In a recent decision of the Indian judiciary, it has been noted that a company has a duty to treat all persons with disabilities with dignity and respect and any discrimination against or harassment of such persons with disabilities shall result in a fine imposed on or other action being taken against the company.
Workmen can approach the Labour Court, Industrial Tribunal or Courts of Inquiry for any industrial dispute in relation to unfair labour practices.
Victims of discrimination or harassment can approach the employer who in turn will form the disciplinary committee, which investigates into the complaints against the accused workmen keeping in mind the principles of natural justice.
Female employees can approach the employer who in turn will set up the Internal Complaints Committee to look into the complaints of sexual harassment and accordingly, award punishment.