Workplace Harassment

In our previous blog – Workplace In The New Era, we addressed issues at the workplace in the current pandemic situation, its impact and its influence on employees. In continuation of the earlier article, this article addresses issues relating to harassment and the various forms of harassment, focusing on workplace harassment.

Harassment is a behaviour that is offensive in nature. Harassment is a serious offence and must be handled swiftly and in an appropriate manner

Workplace harassment is belittling or threatening behaviour directed at an individual worker or a group of workers. Workplace harassment is also known by many other names. “mobbing”, “workplace bullying”, “workplace mistreatment”, “workplace aggression”, “workplace molestation” and “workplace abuse” are all either synonymous or belong to the category of workplace harassment. Workplace harassment includes different types of discrimination and acts of violation that are not confined to one specific group. All the forms of workplace harassment target various groups, including women, men, racial minorities, homosexuals, people with disabilities, and immigrants. Workplace harassment can be based on gender, culture, ethnicity, language, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Sometimes workplace harassment is also based on the tenure of the individual in an organization. In essence, workplace harassment requires a pluralistic understanding, because it cannot be delineated in one coherent and concrete definition.[i] Workplace harassment may take place with an intention to have fun, but its impact is very threatening and traumatic. Strict disciplinary action needs to be taken by the organizations for any kind of workplace harassment.

Forms of Workplace Harassment


Racial Harassment: Racial Harassment at the workplace occurs when an employee is discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour, race, caste, creed, physical appearance, or ethnicity. If an employee engages in unwelcome conduct towards another or offends or humiliates even though it was not intentional it amounts to Racial Harassment. If such harassment is done by a group of colleagues, then it will amount to a hostile environment. Posting racial/offensive pictures or posters in WhatsApp groups or various other social platforms amounts to workplace harassment. Examples are accents, appearance, custom, belief, or clothing, passing racist jokes, banter or taunts, racially derogatory remarks, etc. Racial Harassment also includes religious harassment and disability-based harassment.

Verbal Harassment: Verbal Harassment is a very serious problem faced by the employees in an organization. This kind of harassment may be from one or more co-workers or employers. People react differently to verbal harassment. Some may take it lightly, but some may have a more serious impact on themselves. Examples like inappropriate jokes, comments, teasing, abusing, gossiping and spreading lies, causing embarrassment in front of others, etc.

Physical Harassment: Any inappropriate touch which makes another person uncomfortable or feels threatened is physical harassment. This type of harassment includes improper touching of skin, hitting, slapping, fist fighting, pushing, hugging inappropriately, brushing against another person, leaning on someone, shaking hands tightly for a long time are forms of physical harassment. Any employee could physically harass another employee(s) in order to receive sexual favours.

Psychological Harassment: When a person is being constantly harassed, he/she will be mentally affected and such harassment is known as psychological harassment. It is more complex when compared to other kinds of harassment. Their behaviour when repeated turns out to be more serious in nature like creating a hostile environment for an employee, affecting the dignity and efficiency at work. The behaviour includes humiliating, abusive, or offensive acts against the person. Such gestures may be unwanted behaviour even though the person does not complain or raise a voice against such acts. When a person has been harassed such a working environment will no longer be productive to do their job efficiently.

Gender Harassment: Harassment or discrimination based on gender or sex is known as Gender Harassment. This is a stereotype of thought in the mind of people where they think or categorize work based on gender. For example, a male flight attendant is harassed for perceiving the role as a women’s job primarily. Female driver harassed for taking up men’s job as her driving skills are not that good.

Virtual Harassment: Employers are embracing new technology in order to appeal to younger employees and reap the benefits of a digitally connected world. Remote working, flexi-commute, and working from home have considerably increased over the years. This has resulted in virtual harassment and cyber-bullying.

Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is sexual in nature and generally includes unwanted sexual advances, conduct, or behaviour.

Sexual Harassment may be any unwanted physical contact or advances which could be intimidating or sexual in nature or any demands for sexual favours. Passing demeaning or sexual remarks, forcefully showing pornography, or unwanted abusive, sexual or physical conduct are various forms of Sexual Harassment.

A few commonly asked questions are:

  • Do I need to dress formally or in business casuals while I am working from home?

It is recommended that employees working from home should dress appropriately, as, in certain meetings, companies expect employees to be on Video mode. The dress code may not be formal wear but must be smart business casuals

  • Is there a requirement to schedule a formalized calendar meeting for discussions, with my colleagues or a text will do?

As we are working from home, we tend to get involved in chores and working hours are not fixed, hence it is always preferred to schedule a formal meeting with colleagues or members from different teams. Also, text messages are casual and may not be acceptable to all.

  • Do we adhere strictly to business hours?

Yes, it is recommended; however, in this pandemic situation, when most of us are working from home with challenges to get the work done on time virtually, there remains a high possibility for the employees to extend the usual working hours as the boundaries between work time and personal time are blurred.

  • How do I, as a manager, know that my team member is working effectively 8 hours a day?

In this virtual situation, managers should change their operating rhythm to get the most from the team in this work-from-home environment. Managers should focus on task completion of his or her direct reports other than monitoring working hours. The number of tasks completed in 8 hours should define the efficacy of the employees.

  • How is performance measured and performance coaching carried out?

Performance measurement pertaining to present work from home situations should be more inclined towards task completion rather than sticking to any specific working hours. As virtual working is always challenging because of a lack of effective collaboration and human connection, it is all the more important now to focus on effective completion of tasks as well as maintaining one’s personal life. As for coaching, it is crucial to encourage learning, which can help the employees to be more productive.

In the current pandemic times, the emphasis by organizations should essentially be on adapting to the new normal. WFH and other forms of remote working are definitely here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is imperative for employers to take cognizance of this fact and enable their leaders, managers, and employees to inculcate best practices to ensure that the workplace under this new normal is inclusive, supportive and respectful to one another.


– Srijata Ghosh, Advocate
– Priyanka S. Rodrigues, Advocate

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1 thought on “Workplace Harassment”

  1. B.Chandrashekara Shetty

    The allotropy of workplace harassments is narrated nicely. Remembering the rich cultural heritage of the land in our behavior, attitude and dressing also plays significant role in avoiding moral turpitude at the work place.

    B.Chandrashekhar Shetty

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B. Chandrashekar Shetty - Advocate

Mr. Chandrashekar Shetty is a Senior Labour Law Compliance Auditor at BCP Associates and has audited multiple client companies across India. He is also a member of our senior legal advisory practice. Previously he has worked as Deputy Controller, Manager-Industrial Relations and Industrial Relations Officer in KPTCL, Bangalore for more than 30 years. Prior to this, he has dealt with Legal, Personnel and IR matters including Wage Settlements, Grievance Machinery, Manpower Study and Social Security Compliances for about 10 years. He is a Faculty member of Labour Law, HRD Centre, KPTCL Bangalore.

Mr. Shetty holds a B.Com. and L.L.B. degree, Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration, Diploma in Public Relations from Bangalore University and PG Diploma in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan. He is enrolled as Advocate in Karnataka Bar Council and is a Govt. Arbitrator of Chit Funds in Karnataka.

S Venugopal Rao

S Venugopal Rao is an experienced labour law and service matters expert and is a member of the senior advisory team at BCP Associates. Having joined the chambers of Mr. B C Prabhakar in 2012, he is knowledgeable and well versed in multiple employment and labour law topics. S Venugopal Rao holds a Bachelor’s degree in Science from Karnataka University, Dharwar and Bachelor of Law from Bangalore University. He enrolled as advocate in Karantaka State Bar Council in 1976. He joined the chamber of Sri. Kolachalam Srinivasa Rao a leading civil advocate. After practicing for 6 years at Ballari, he joined Orient Paper Mills, Orissa (of G P Birla Group). He was designated as Manager (Law) under the Factories Act in 1995. In 1999, he joined Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills Rajahmundry as Manager Legal and was subsequently elevated as Dy. General Manager (Legal). As Factory Manager & Legal Head, he oversaw compliance of Factories Act and Rules there under towards safety, health and welfare, including compliance under Pollutions and Environmental laws and Explosives Act, etc. Additionally, he is well acquainted with Environment Management System ISO 14001: 2004, Occupations, Health and Safety Series 18000:1999. As Legal head in APPM he has briefed and appeared along with Senior Advocate before Appellate Authority constituted under Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act. He retired from the services of Andhra Pradesh Paper Mills in 2011. As legal head he has handled important cases both in Labour and Civil and has experience in drafting and vetting Contracts, Agreements, Lease Agreement, Conveyance Deeds, , Affidavits and scrutiny of several legal and other documents, Preparing and settling Petitions, Appeals, Plaints, Written Statements, Rejoinders, Affidavits and Written Arguments etc. for submission/pleadings for various legal proceedings.

C K Devappa Gowda - Advocate

C.K. Devappa Gowda (CKD) is an Advocate and Labour Law expert. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science from the University of Mysore and a Degree in Bachelor of Law from Bengaluru respectively. He also holds a Diploma in Social Service Administration from the National Institute of Social Science, Bengaluru. After completing his studies, he had enrolled as a Advocate and initially practiced in the Civil Code attached to the office of BCP. He then worked as Personnel Officer in Chemicals and Textile Manufacturing Industries for 5 years. Thereafter took up employment in one of the largest Public Sector Bank. He has worked in different parts of the country and has extensive experience in the cross country IR domain. The significant part of his service was at corporate level overseeing and implementing HR policies and practices and management of IR. He has been a member of personnel committee of Indian Bank Association. After retirement from service, Mr. Gowda has been working with Mr. BC Prabhakar’s firm for the last 12 years. He has expertise in all areas of people management, drafting of documents relating to service matter including the settlements under the ID Act. He has dealt with all employment laws including appearance before the Courts, Tribunal and Authorities under the different Labour Laws. Mr. Gowda is one of the senior Labour Law experts at BCP Associates.

Srijatha Ghosh - POSH Specialist & Advocate

Srijata Ghosh serves as external member on the Internal Committee of several Companies across various sectors. She handles all kinds of POSH related matters including investigations and inquiries. She provides Training on Sexual Harassment across all verticals for Managers and Senior Management, General Awareness for all employees and Internal Committee members on the legislation (The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013). She also formulates Policies for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (“POSH”) and advises Companies on setting up of their Internal Committees. Srijata is involved in providing Legal Advisory services on POSH and other labour law matters for various clients.

In her previous experience, she has extensively dealt with End-to-End Contract Management, Due Diligence, POSH Compliances, Legal Advisory, etc. Srijata worked with Companies like Accenture India Private Limited, Quess Corp., Capgemini Business Services (India) Limited and Pramata Knowledge Solutions Private Limited. Srijata has handled varied legal issues including drafting, vetting and negotiation of contracts, drafting policies of various organizations. She has resolved issues relating to employment laws and has worked closely with the HR teams. She has provided legal advisory services to senior management. She was also associated with Kolkata High Court in counselling clients with legal matters such as Property, Due Diligence etc. Srijata has worked in an LPO Service Firm, Manthan Legal Services Private Limited for Legal Research, depositions, medical summaries, demand drafting etc.

Srijata completed her B.A.LL.B from M. S. Ramaiah College of Law, Bangalore University in 2009. Srijata is a member of the Karnataka Bar Council since 2010. She is also a member of the Gender Sensitivity Sub Committee of Karnataka Employer Association (KEA).

Caroline Lobo - POSH Specialist & Advocate

Caroline Lobo has been with BCP Associates for the past 2+ years. She has been handling matters and Inquiries related to the POSH Act including conducting inquiries and trainings/awareness programmes for Senior Management, employees as well as members of the Internal Committee on the POSH Legislation (The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“Act”) to address Workplace Harassment of Women. She is a member of the Internal Committee for many varied companies and organisations and has reviewed and scrutinized numerous hearings and inquiries on matters relating to sexual harassment at workplace.

She has also handled matters relating to employer-employee related Enquiries, wherein she has reviewed and conducted hearings and enquired into the matters and has guided the Internal Committee and provided guidance in providing recommendations to the management. She is also a Member of the Gender Sensitivity Sub-committee of Karnataka Employer Association (KEA).

Prior to joining BCP Associates, Caroline has has a wide range of experience in corporate, commercial and contract law, mergers and acquisition and has undertaken drafting, vetting, negotiating and finalizing legal and commercial transactions. She started her career in litigation then moved onto the Corporate sector. In the span of 13 years, she has worked at Chambers of Advocate Jayashree Murali, Krishnamurthy and Co. Legal Consultants, Colt Technology Services and Oracle India Pvt. Ltd. She always had a keen interest in Women and Child related issues. She has worked with Child Welfare Committee and NGOS’s. In addition, she has worked with Swasthi Health Resource and Centre, where she was the External member to the Internal Committee (IC). She worked closely with the committee in strategizing, planning, reviewing and implementing the assigned tasks, which included building material to raise awareness against sexual harassment at workplace. Further, she has been involved in conducting inquiries into matters related to sexual harassment at workplace.

Caroline earned her Law degree from University Law College, Bangalore, from where she graduated in the year 2005.

Manoj Kumar – Senior Associate

At BCP Associates, Manoj Kumar is involved in managing and conducting labour law compliance audits of principal employer and contractors. He is also involved in client co-ordination and conducting labour law training programs for vendors. He has conducted on-ground labour law audit for factories. Manoj also provides support in advising vendor clients on labour law queries. He completed B.A., LL.B. from BMS College of Law, Bangalore in 2016

Rashmitha Venkatachalam Das - POSH Specialist & Advocate

Rashmitha Venkatachalam Das is the External Member of the Internal Committee of several reputed Organizations across various sectors. Handling complex inquiries has been her forte and she is extremely passionate about it. She is actively involved in providing Training on Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 across all verticals for Managers and Senior Management, General Awareness for all employees and Internal Committee members. Rashmitha possesses capabilities in delivering sessions in Hindi and Kannada, in addition to English. She has formulated Policies for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (“POSH”), advised companies on setting up of their Committee. Rashmitha is involved in providing Legal Advisory services on POSH for various clients spread across diverse sectors. She has also been handling domestic enquiries for various clients. 

Rashmitha possesses experience both at Law Firms and Corporates in various capacities. She started her career at Krishnamurthy and Co, Legal Consultants and then moved on to work as an In- House Legal Counsel with Companies such as Biocon Limited, Columbia Asia Hospitals Private Limited, Adecco India Private Limited. With a long stint in the Corporate side, Rashmitha decided to pursue further education in Law with a specialization in Labour and Employment Laws. She has rich experience in drafting, vetting and negotiation of various types of contracts, providing legal opinions and has driven the team in formulating process and procedures and their implementation. She has drafted several employment related policies in Corporates. Rashmitha has been a part of various key committees in Organizations and assisted committees in scrutiny of documents pertaining to human organ transplant as well as clinical trials.

Rashmitha holds an LL.M. in Labour and Employment Laws from University Law College, Bangalore, which she completed in the year 2018 with Two Gold Medals. She is also a Rank Holder at the University. She has completed BA, LL.B. from Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies, Bangalore University in the year 2009. Rashmitha is a member of the Karnataka Bar Council since 2009 and also a member of the Gender Sensitivity Sub Committee of Karnataka Employer Association (KEA).

Manisha Vidyadhar – Senior Associate

At BCP Associates, Manisha Vidyadhar is involved in managing and conducting labour law compliance audits of principal employer and contractors. She is also involved in client co-ordination and conducting labour law training programs for vendors. She has conducted on-ground labour law audit for factories. Manisha also provides support in advising vendor clients on labour law queries.  She completed B.A., LL.B. from BMS College of Law, Bangalore in 2016.

Amrutha Ananth – Senior Associate

At BCP Associates, Amrutha Ananth is involved in managing and conducting labour law compliance audits of principal employer and contractors. She is also involved in client co-ordination and conducting labour law training programs for vendors. She has conducted on-ground labour law audit for factories. She also provides support in advising vendor clients on labour law queries.

Amrutha is also part of the labour law advisory and HR Policy practice and is actively involved in drafting opinions on various aspects of labour laws and formulate and review employment policies and procedure.

Amrutha completed B.A., LL.B. from Christ University, Bangalore in 2015. She is also a semi-qualified Company Secretary.

Sunil Arya – Principle Associate

At BCP Associates, Sunil Arya is part of the labour and employment law advisory and HR Policy practice and is actively involved in drafting and reviewing of employment contracts, opinions, HR policies, employee handbook, show cause notice, etc. for various clients spread across diverse sectors. He conducts training on labour and employment laws. Sunil is also involved in labour law compliance audits of principal employer and contractors and has conducted on-ground labour law audit for factories. In addition, he is engaged in knowledge creation and management of the firm and keenly writes on developments in labour and employment laws.

Prior to joining BCP Associates, Sunil has 10 years of post-qualification experience in diversified portfolios of advisory, drafting, policy analysis and dispute in the domains of contracts, general civil matters, employment law, competition law and construction arbitration matters. Sunil started his career as a Law Researcher in Delhi High Court. He moved on to be part of regulatory analysis team of CIRC, a unit of CUTS International. In addition, Sunil has been part of legal team of Jindal India Thermal Power Limited. He has also taught competition law, tax law and investment law at VIPS, Delhi.

Sunil holds LL.M. from The Indian Law Institute, Delhi. He is First Rank Holder in his thesis. He completed B.A, L.L.B. (Hons.) from I.P. University, Delhi. He also holds First Rank in P.G. Diploma in Competition Policy and Laws from The National Law University, Delhi.

Chandrakala K A – Principle Associate

At BCP Associates, Chandrakala has 12+ years of experience in conducting and managing labour law compliance audits of principal employer and contractors. She is also involved in co-ordination with many clients. She has conducted on-ground labour law audit for factories. She also provides support in advising vendors on labour law queries. Chandrakala is actively involved in research and providing valuable inputs to the firm pertaining to updation in labour law audit function.

Chandrakala started her career in litigation in chamber of Sri. Ashok where she was involved in drafting, pleading and appearance before Karnataka High Courts and lower courts on the criminal side.

Chandrakala completed B.A in Arts from Kuvempu University, Shimoga in 2003 and LL.B. from Mangalore University in 2006.