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Analysis of different types of harassment (excluding sexual harassment) at workplaces.


Analysis of different types of harassment (excluding sexual harassment) at workplaces and the tortious liability with respect to them



INTRODUCTION


A workplace is like a second home for people considering the amount of time they spend there and this workplace should be safe for all people who work there even if temporary or part time. Harassment is a form of employee discrimination and violates various laws and infringes rights of people which are guaranteed to them by the constitution. “Workplace harassment affects both men and women in all walks of life and in every level of employment. There exists a range of harassment behaviours that men and women have to go through when they enter their workplace. For some men, harassment takes the form of verbal abuse and retaliation, and for some women, harassment takes the form of sexual harassment, and some may be subjected to abusive workplace situations based on their race, class, disability, sexual orientation, or language.”


It is observed that while much attention is garnered by sexual harassment and that too specifically for women as there exist more cases in that area, not much is discussed about other forms of harassment that is gender neutral or even gender specific but not sexual in nature. The article tries to explore the different types of harassment excluding sexual harassment that employees face in their place of work and what are the laws and statues that are available to protect them and to what extent the offender would be liable under torts law.


WORKPLACE HARRASMENT


When employees first arrive at work, they are subjected to a wide range of harassment behaviours. Employees are subjected to workplace harassment and violence for a variety of reasons. Employees' physical and mental well-being are influenced by the environment in which they work. Unfortunately, an employee's rude and intrusive behaviour will ruin a co-worker’s job satisfaction. A harasser can engage in mildly annoying behaviour that disrupts the other person's concentration, or he can engage in extremely obnoxious behaviour that causes anxiety and puts the other person's safety in jeopardy. Workplace harassment is defined as making vexatious remarks or engaging in conduct against a co-worker that is known or may reasonably be known to be unwelcome.

Harassment in the workplace refers to actions that contribute to a hostile work environment. Discrimination based on a protected class status, such as race, religion, or disability, must be included in workplace harassment.

Many people assume that sexual assault is the only form of harassment that can occur. This is not the case. Sexual harassment is, without a doubt, one of the most prevalent types of harassment, but it is far from the only one. Many states and local governments, in reality, have very strict anti-discrimination laws that also include clauses prohibiting abuse of what may be very specific groups of people. The following is an overview of some of the other forms of abuse that may occur at work or anywhere.


TYPES OF HARRASMENT


Discriminatory harassment :

Discriminatory abuse happens when someone harasses another person because of the victim’s membership in a privileged class. Workplace discrimination that is founded on a person’s safe attributes is illegal under state and federal legislation. Some of the various forms of discriminatory harassment are listed below.


  • Gender harassment

  • Ethnic or racial harassment

  • Harassment based on disability


Verbal Abuse :

Personality conflicts are often the source of verbal abuse. It is frequently not against the rule. Someone who is regularly rude may be considered a verbal harasser. In public or private, verbal abuse may include insults, swearing, shouting, or threats. Verbal harassment is the most common form of disrespectful and harassing behaviour on the job. Snide, insulting, or degrading comments are impolite and can lead to harassment if they occur often. It is disrespectful and harassing to engage in continuous verbal conversation that interferes with a person's ability to function in a peaceful atmosphere. The intervention of the HR manager is required when an employee's verbal tirades against another employee continue. The HR manager must be on the lookout for these types of actions so that he can issue warnings, advice, and sanctions to perpetrators.


Retaliation harassment :

Retaliation abuse is when someone is harassed in retaliation for engaging in a legally protected operation. For example, if a worker complains to a committee about safety violations, the employer can try to retaliate by threatening the worker. This is against the law. A boss who alters an employee's work schedule in order to annoy them may be charged with abuse. A company's manager is responsible for determining the legitimacy of any suspected retaliatory action and resolving the case. Keep a record of the incident and inform the perpetrator that such conduct will result in dismissal or other severe disciplinary action in the future.


Bullying : Bullying in the workplace is negative, targeted activity that occurs at work. It may be sarcastic, insulting, mocking, or intimidating. It forms a pattern and is usually aimed at one person or a small group of people. Below listed are a few examples of bullying:

  • practical jokes for a specific audience

  • being intentionally deceived about job responsibilities, such as inaccurate deadlines or contradictory instructions

  • Continuing to deny demands for time off without including an adequate or legitimate explanation

  • Threats, humiliation, and other forms of verbal abuse are common.

  • excessive control of results

  • unjust or excessively negative criticism


Negative stereotyping :

In the workplace, stereotyping refers to making assumptions about individuals based on their gender, culture, religious views, or physical characteristics. While some stereotyping can be done innocently or in jest, the danger is that it will hurt people's feelings and create a hostile work environment. Discrimination exposes businesses to significant competitiveness problems as well as legal ramifications.



Ageism at workplace :

Insults, bullying, unreasonable criticism, and being left out of meetings or events because of the worker's age are all examples of age-related abuse. Seniors are not always regarded with the dignity they deserve. According to the Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Report 2019, 44 percent of employees aged 40 and up said they or someone they knew had faced age discrimination in the workplace. More than 20% of employees over the age of 62 were belittled by their co-workers and supervisors, according to University of Maine researchers. More than a quarter of respondents said their job efforts were overlooked and that their opinions were not taken into account when making decisions. Many employees said that their co-workers made age-related jokes.


Physical harassment :

Workplace abuse that involves physical threats or assaults is known as physical harassment. It may be an assault in some situations. It's possible that physical violence is illegal. The following are some examples of physical harassment:


  • Harmful threats.

  • Hitting, shoving, or kicking are both examples of physical violence.

  • Conduct that is threatening.

  • Destruction of property for the purpose of intimidating others.

Workplace violence is more common in some sectors, such as health care, law enforcement, social services, and education.


Power harassment :

When the victim and the harasser have different levels of control, power abuse occurs. Someone with a lower rank in the workplace hierarchy is bullied by the harasser. Excessive requests, demeaning comments, intruding into the worker's personal life, verbal coercion, and physical abuse are all examples of power harassment.


Online harassment :

If more businesses adopt technology, the risk of online abuse rises. Spreading online gossip about the victim, exchanging humiliating details through mass chat, or sending harassing text messages to the victim are all examples of workplace online harassment.

TORTIOUS LIABILITY WITH REGARD TO WORKPLACE HARRASMENT


Much of the laws that cover workplace harassment are covered under:

  • The Constitution of India

  • Indian Penal Code, 1860

  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

  • Industrial Employment Standing Orders Act, 1946

  • Industrial Employment Standing Orders Act, 1946

To hold people accountable for harassment under tort law might be slightly inconvenient considering there are no specific harassment laws in Indian tort law. Although there are ways to cover harassment under laws like defamation, trespass to person, nuisance, etc. Therefore, for someone to take a wrongdoer into court of law for harassment, a person may have to approach the court under some other tort law which will cover the infringement suffered by them. There are no written and codified laws for harassment under torts law and establishing tortious liability of wrongdoer for harassment has to be filed under one of the above mentioned heads.

Verbal abuse and verbal abuse which may also include verbal harassment based on ethnicity, race, gender by employers can be filed under defamation in cases where the abuse was public and involved a third party. When an employee or employer abuses a colleague or another employee in the workplace in front of a third party and directs snide remarks related to the religion, age, sex, race of a person, the person can be said to have committed defamation.

When someone is physically harassed they can take the wrongdoer to court under trespass to property or battery. When physical harm is caused to someone at their workplace it can be charged under trespass to property which involves battery and assault because when a person is threatened and is in fear of danger or imminent threat their rights are infringed and he can sur the wrongdoer in the court of law.



THE ISSUE

Sexual harassment has garnered much attention when it comes to harassment at workplace but while this is a major issue, there are also other kinds of harassment which are gender neutral and widespread. These types of harassment stem from bad mentality and behaviour and are found across all workplaces and span through all genders and all age groups.

What is lacking is a well-defined and codified set of laws under tort law for such harassment may they be small scale so they can be reported since the grass root levels and employees do not have to wait for such harassment to escalate to an extreme level to go to court under IPC, Constitution or other statutes.

There are not many cases available online with regard to some kinds of harassment like verbal abuse etc because while they may be brought to court they are generally part of a larger issue and therefore the focus is not on individual types of harassment.


CONCLUSION


Harassment is defined as any inappropriate and unwelcome behaviour that could reasonably be expected or perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another person. Harassment can take the form of words, gestures, or actions that irritate, alarm, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle, humiliate, or embarrass another person, or that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Women face discrimination from childhood, particularly in communities where the male child is preferred. Harassment in the workplace is becoming more prevalent in all sectors of the economy, owing to an increase in the number of negative consequences. Several non-governmental organisations have developed anti-harassment policies as a result of this. When bullying and harassment occur they not only affect the complainant but have a knock on effect for the work area or institution in which they are occurring. Relationships between work colleagues become strained and at times difficult, with some colleagues not wanting to get involved as they do not see the bullying and harassment as having anything to do with them.

Workplace harassment is the one of major indicator of organisational health because of it create stress in the mind of employees, through different studies it must be say that it’s not affected men and women employees equally, most of the literature reviewed shows that women employees are most affect than male employee by workplace bullying and harassment.

Harassment of any sort has no room in the workplace. If you're an employer subject to federal anti-discrimination legislation, you have a legal duty to have a work atmosphere that is free from harassment, insult, or mockery based on race, colour, religion, gender, or national origin. A organisation must also be careful with avoiding discrimination and it can sometimes be prosecuted in state courts.



REFERENCES


  • Anita Bernstein, Law, Culture and Harassment, 142 University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 1227-1311, (1994).

  • Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A. K. Chopra, 1999, AIR 1999 SC 625 (India).

  • Asha P. Shetty, 14, Workplace Harassment among Employees : An Explorative Study, AMHS Journal, (2017).

  • C. Swarnalatha, Workplace harassment and job satisfaction : An Empirical Study among Employees of Automotive Industries in India, Tactful Management Research Journal, (2013)

  • Employee, Cambridge dictionary (ed. 2021).

  • Employee, Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).\

  • Harassment, Cambridge dictionary (ed. 2021).

  • Kunal Singh v. Union of India, 2003, 4 SCC 524, (India).

  • L. Nagaraju vs. Syndicate Bank and Ors.: High Court of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1507, 1991 SCR (2) 576 (India).

  • Morgan v Halls of Gloucester, 2011, UKEAT/0573/10/DA (UK).

  • M V Winslow Constructions (VIC) PTY LTS, VSC 728, (2015).

  • Sexual harassment, Merriam Webster (1969).

  • Workplace, Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).


Submitted by,

Hemangi Gurjar

NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law, Mumbai

First year



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