In the context of private sector employment, India currently does not have a comprehensive legislation that addresses workplace discrimination, except in relation to sexual harassment and in the context of persons with disabilities and with HIV, and in the context of protection of transgender persons from discrimination under the Transgender Act. It is also pertinent to note here that the ID Act prohibits commission of certain ‘unfair labour practices’, which include: discrimination against any workman for filing charges or testifying against an employer in any inquiry or proceeding relating to any industrial dispute or discriminating against workmen by reason of their being members of a trade union and/or showing favoritism or partiality to one set of workers regardless of merit.
Protections Against Harassment
India currently does not have a single comprehensive legislation on discriminatory practices at the workplace; instead, there are various laws that prohibit certain kinds of discriminatory practices and protect the interests of vulnerable communities such as workmen, women, persons with HIV and AIDS, persons with disabilities, transgender persons and members of certain socially backward classes. For instance, with respect to women, the ERA stipulates that male and female employees who perform similar tasks must be paid equal wages, and also mandates that employers are prohibited from discriminating against women in matters of recruitment, promotions and transfers.
Establishments are prohibited from discriminating against any transgender person with respect to matters related to the employment of such persons. The Transgender Act also requires an establishment to designate a complaint officer who would be responsible for the redressal of complaints pertaining to violations of the Act. The Transgender Act also requires an employer to provide the necessary facilities to transgender persons.
Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (“ICC”) that will inquire into sexual harassment complaints. Cases of general harassment (provided they are not criminal offices) are typically governed by the establishment’s internal policies; typically, the internal policies clearly stipulate the conduct that would amount to harassment, the manner of conducting an internal inquiry and nature of disciplinary action that would be undertaken, depending on the seriousness of the conduct.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
Employers are required to ensure compliance with certain accessibility standards, such as: (i) the ‘Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Persons With Disabilities and Elderly Persons’; (ii) standards for Bus Body Code for transportation system; and (iii) website standards, amongst others. Also, every establishment engaged in healthcare services and those where there is a significant risk of occupational exposure to HIV, is required to ensure a safe working environment.
In case of non-compliances by employers, penalties extend to monetary fines, imprisonment and even cancellation of any Government registration for carrying out their business.