Complaint Against Mental Harassment At Workplace in India

June 14, 2022, 8:47 am | Updated May 25, 2024, 3:21 pm IST
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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What is mental harassment at the work? How do I report harassment at work? What is the law against mental harassment in the workplace in India? Answers to all such queries have been addressed on this page for people in toxic workplaces being subjected to harassment.

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 the 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. According to a global survey conducted by the International Labour Organization, 3 out of 5 victims of workplace harassment experience repeated incidents. Is there a solution for such a toxic workplace and bosses? Let's find out the know-how of complaints against mental harassment in the 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 race, caste, sex, religion, disability, etc.
  • Comments over the age of the employee
  • Defaming an employee causing wrongful damage to the reputation of an employee at a 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
  • Cyberbullying, such as sharing inappropriate images and malicious emails

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


How to Prevent Mental Harassment at the Workplace?

Promoting a supportive work culture is essential in preventing mental harassment. Organizations can implement several strategies to achieve this. Regular training sessions on workplace ethics and anti-harassment policies can educate employees about acceptable behaviour and the consequences of harassment. Establishing a transparent and accessible grievance redressal mechanism encourages employees to report incidents without fear of retaliation. Encouraging open communication and fostering an inclusive environment where diversity is valued and respected can also significantly reduce the incidence of harassment. These strategies collectively create a positive and safe work environment.


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 for 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 a 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 in the workplace. The source of workplace harassment laws could be the central or state legislation 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 co-worker, it is always better to speak up than keep 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, bonuses, 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 a certain policy regarding the 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 to women. In other words, men suffering from sexual harassment in the 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 for punishing hurt and grievous hurt depending upon the degree of injury caused. Sections 354 and 509 specifically deal with the acts that harm the modesty of a woman through provocative words, gestures or assault. Section 504 punishes the intentional use of abusive language against another that is meant to disrupt the peace. 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 the disability of an employee. It promotes equality to curb workplace harassment against persons with disabilities. 
  • Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 - Employment terminationthrough layoffs or retrenchment is regulated under the Act providing employees with safety through a notice period ranging from 30 to 90 days. 
  • Information Technology Act (2000) - Section 66E deals with the violation of privacy, covering acts such as capturing or transmitting private images without consent. Sections 67 and 67A address the publishing or transmitting of obscene or sexually explicit material in electronic form, which can significantly impact an employee's mental health.
  • Case Law - In the 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.”

While there are no provisions directly dealing with mental harassment in the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, they prescribe various guidelines that should be adhered to for the fair treatment of employees and a healthy workplace, such as number of hours for work, sudden termination etc. The violation of these provisions may lead to mental harassment.


Where Can I Complain About Mental Harassment at Work?

After knowing the law against mental harassment in the workplace in India, everyone has the same question, ‘How do I report harassment at work?’. A person must report mental harassment at the workplace by the boss or coworkers as per the organisational rules and regulations. A complaint letter against mental harassment at the 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 to write a letter of a 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. 

Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) if there are less than 10 employees or an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) if there are more than 10 employees, is mandatory to address complaints of sexual harassment, which includes behaviours that cause mental harassment. These committees receive complaints from employees, conduct inquiries into allegations of sexual harassment, and recommend appropriate actions against offenders. Employees who experience mental harassment, such as derogatory remarks, verbal abuse, or other forms of behaviour creating a hostile work environment, can report such incidents to the LCC or ICC. They should maintain confidentiality and provide a safe platform for employees to report grievances.

You could complaint against mental harassment at workplace to the 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. 

Complaints against mental harassment at the workplace can be made to the labour commissioners in case any rights under the labour laws are infringed such as unpaid salary being used as an object of blackmail. 


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 on the victim. IPC sections for mental harassment in the 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 a criminal lawyer in Kolkata is recommended before filing a mental harassment complaint against mental harassment at workplace to the police. However, labour laws may only settle the matter through the implication of a 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. Some may take sexual remarks as jokes and move on, while others may be very sensitive to such stuff, and 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 any time and forget that the 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 of 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 the workplace by bosses or coworkers. Complaints against mental harassment in the workplace should be addressed sensitively and concluded after weighing both sides of the coin. 



  1. Can I file a case against my employer for mental harassment?

    Yes, an FIR can be lodged at the Police Station. Harassment of employees at work violates their constitutionally guaranteed right to live with dignity.
  1. What is the IPC section for mental harassment in the workplace?

    No section in IPC deals with mental harassment in the workplace but an FIR can be lodged by the victim. The offender can be booked under Section 294/509 of IPC.
  1. What are the three 3 types of harassment?

    Verbal, Visual and Physical.
  1. How do I write a complaint against mental harassment at workplace?

    While writing your mental harassment complaint –
    1. Be specific, mention the details of the incident like date, time, location etc.
    2. State only the facts.
    3. Be precise, keep it short, and to the point and avoid using unprofessional language.

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

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