Extent of Protection
India does not have a single comprehensive legislation on discriminatory practices at the workplace – instead, there are various legislations 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 and members of certain socially backward classes.
Protections against Harassment
Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (“ICC”) that will inquire into sexual harassment complaints. The ICC shall consist of: (i) a presiding officer who will be a senior women employee; (ii) at least 2 employees preferably committed to the cause of women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge; (iii) an external member from amongst non-governmental organizations or associations committed to the cause of women or an external counsel familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment. At least half of the ICC members shall at all times be women, and the term of the ICC members shall not exceed 3 years.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
Employers are required to ensure compliance with certain accessibility standards, such as: (i) standards for public buildings as specified in the ‘Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Persons With Disabilities and Elderly Persons’ as issued by the Government of India; (ii) standards for Bus Body Code for transportation system as specified in the relevant Government of India notification; (iii) website standards as specified in the guidelines for Indian Government websites, as adopted by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Government of India; (iv) ensuring that the documents to be placed on websites are in the Electronic Publication (ePUB) or Optical Character Reader (OCR) based pdf format. Every establishment engaged in the healthcare services and those where there is a significant risk of occupational exposure to HIV, is required to ensure a safe working environment, which shall include safety from persons coming into contact at the workplace.
Penalties in case of non-compliances by employers extend to monetary fines, imprisonment and even cancellation of any Government registration for carrying on business.