Complaint Against Mental Harassment At Workplace in India

Posted On : June 14, 2022
Complaint Against Mental Harassment At Workplace in India
What is mental harassment in the work? How do I report harassment at work? What is the law against mental harassment at the workplace in India? Answers to all such queries have been addressed on this page for people at toxic workplace being subjected to harassment.
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When an employer trusts the employees, productivity improves exponentially. Make your employees happy with the work culture and you won’t need to make extra efforts to take care of your clients, your happy employees will take care of them. This is the true power of a good work culture. But this fact is often a myth for many workplaces, especially in the corporate sector. The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has added fuel to the risk of job security. It brought an era where even after pay cuts and limitless hours working from home, the employers had the guts to intimidate their employees to be thankful to even have a job at such uncertain times. Such traumatic experiences add to the degrading physical as well as the mental health of employees thereby becoming an obstacle in their personal and professional life. Is there a solution for such a toxic workplace and bosses? Let's find out the know-hows of complaint against mental harassment at workplace in India.


What is Mental Harassment in the Workplace?

Before heading for a solution, it is always better to get into the roots of the problem and understand it. In general, harassment can be understood as an unwelcome action of one person causing humiliation to the other one being subjected to such behaviour. Sexual harassment and the laws addressing the same are known to all while mental harassment is something which is rarely talked about. Mental harassment may be in the form of words, actions or gestures which result in annoying, alarming, abusing, demeaning, intimidating, belittling, humiliating or embarrassing another. Given below are some examples of mental harassment in office:

  • Remarks over the race, caste, sex, religion, disability, etc.
  • Comments over age of the employee
  • Defaming an employee causing wrongful damage to the reputation of employee at workplace
  • Negative remarks over different political belief
  • Comments over sexual orientation
  • Not recognizing but degrading someone over work efforts
  • Belittling an employee for the marital status
  • Sexual remarks
  • Non-payment of bonus wages
  • Stalking
  • Being targeted for no reason
  • Bullying/ unexplained yelling for mistakes without giving any proper guidance
  • Hostile workplace
  • Insulting a senior employee in front of other co-workers or juniors
  • Secluding an employee while grouping the rest
  • Not following terms in the appointment agreement, whether it's about the pay or work hours or the position offered
  • Inclusion of unreasonable clauses in the employment agreement

Although instances of mental harassment at workplace by boss or co-worker do not end here, these are the usual behaviours which force an employee to succumb to depression due to a toxic workplace.


Can we File a Complaint for Mental Harassment?

In India, mental health is something that is taken very casually and mostly ignored, which ends up as the biggest reason of suicides in the country. It's high time that people start talking about workplace harassment and help the victims around. If you are someone who is being subjected to mental harassment in government office or a private one, raising your voice against the wrong is important. Before that, it is better to know the law against mental harassment at workplace. The source of workplace harassment laws could be the central or state legislations or the office manual for such events. Moreover, if you are feeling uncomfortable working at an office and know that it's not a fault on your part but the boss, employer or a co-worker, it is always better to speak up than keeping mum.


Law Against Mental Harassment at Workplace

A company or establishment incorporated which employs several employees has to follow certain statutory compliances. Such compliance guarantees timely wages, genuine work hours, bonus, insurance, etc. for the employees based on the kind of establishment they work for. Apart from being an employee, the Constitution of India, 1950 guarantees certain rights upholding the basic dignity of an individual through Articles 14, 15, 19, 21, 39A, etc. Article 39A particularly upholds the principle of equal pay for equal work. Other important provisions against workplace harassment are explained below:


  • Company Policy - Every organisation in the corporate sector has certain policy regarding escalation of grievances by the employees. One should go through the same and know the roadmap to be followed in such an organisation when suffering from a toxic workplace.
  • Payment of Wages Act, 1936 - In the name of gross deductions, if an employer deducts an unexplained amount from your salary, provisions of this Act may be of great help for seeking relief.
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 - The provisions under this Act punish any unwelcome act or behaviour at the workplace which is sexual in colour, regardless of whether it was direct or implied. Sexual harassment eventually causes mental harassment to the victim which may negatively affect the mental or physical health. A limitation of this law is that the provisions grant protection only for women. In other words, men suffering from sexual harassment at workplace can not seek relief under this Act.
  • IPC Sections for Mental Harassment at Workplace - There are no direct provisions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 addressing workplace harassment. But there are other IPC sections which can be invoked by employees if the acts are similar. For example, Section 499 (defamation) punishes for slander or libel through words said or written, gestures, etc. There are provisions of punishing hurt and grievous hurt depending upon the degree of injury caused. Sections 354, 509 specifically deal with the acts that harm the modesty of a woman. Section 504 punishes intentional use of abusive language against another. Section 506 of the Act punishes criminal intimidation.
  • Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 - Employment of a woman expecting a child or even the one who recently experienced an abortion or miscarriage is protected under the Act in terms of employment.
  • Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 - The Act specifically restricts any kind of discrimination against disability of an employee. It promotes equality to curb workplace harassment against persons with disabilities.
  • Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Employment termination through layoffs or retrenchment are regulated under the Act providing employees with safety through notice period ranging from 30 to 90 days.
  • Case Law - In case of Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India[1], the hon’ble Supreme Court has declared that “Right to life includes protection of the health and strength of the worker is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity.”


Where can I Complain About Mental Harassment at Work?

After knowing the law against mental harassment at workplace in India, everyone has the same question, ‘How do I report harassment at work?’. A person must report mental harassment at workplace by boss or coworkers as per the organisational rules and regulations. A complaint letter against mental harassment at workplace to the Human Resources department may usually help. If there is no redressal to the matter, corporate lawyers in India may assist the victims legally. The solution on how do I write a letter of mental harassment complaint to HR is that it should address the right personnel and contain all the details of the repetitive incident, including evidence if possible.

It could be a mental harassment complaint to police in case of a serious offence. If provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 are invoked, police may be involved in the matter. If police take things petty and do not register a complaint, the workplace harassment victims must reach out to the magistrate.

Complaint against mental harassment at workplace can be made to the labour commissioners in case any rights under the labour laws are infringed.

What is the Punishment for Mental Harassment?

The punishment for workplace harassment is not universal. It depends upon the act or behaviour which resulted in such harassment and also the degree of impact over the victim. IPC sections for mental harassment at workplace may drag such boss or coworker to jail. If you are someone in Kolkata and criminal laws seem to be applicable in your case, consultation with criminal lawyer in Kolkata is recommended before filing a mental harassment complaint to police. However, labour laws may only settle the matter through implication of fine over the employer for workplace harassment.


Peroration to Workplace Harassment

The answer to ‘what is mental harassment in the workplace?’ is different for different people. Someone may take sexual remarks as jokes and move on, while the other may be very sensitive to such stuff, end up with depression or suicidal thoughts. Hence, before uttering words targeting another, one should weigh their words. Someone working under your authority does not become your slave so that you can yell at them at anytime and forget that person who works for you is a human being, works for a limited time and has a life apart from work. Compassion can be the cessation to workplace harassment when we treat other people working for the same organisation with respect and dignity. In order to curb workplace harassment, strict policies should be framed by employers against mental harassment at workplace by boss or coworker. Complaint against mental harassment at workplace should be addressed sensitively and be concluded after weighing both sides of the coin.

[1] Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India, (1995) AIR 922, 1995 SCC (3) 42.

Written By:
Ridhi Khurana

Ridhi Khurana


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