Discrimination means unfair or unjust treatment. It may be based on a
number of grounds. But at a workplace, the most common grounds are
race, religion, gender, caste, and physical disability. Apart from being
biased, it is invalid as well as illegal. Although there is no specific
law that governs discrimination, a number of laws make it illegal.
Laws against Discrimination
Protection under the Constitution
First and foremost, the Constitution of India makes discrimination invalid. It does this by making it a fundamental right of the citizens. Article 14 guarantees equality to all citizens. Moreover, Article 15 also prohibits discrimination on the following grounds.
- Place of Birth
Article 16 deals with matters of employment, providing equal opportunity to all. It also adds Descent as an additional ground of protection.
However, as per the Constitution, these articles apply only to the government. This means that they can only protect a citizen when the employer is the Government. But in various judgments, courts have applied these Articles against private parties as well.
Protection under Other Laws
There is an entire range of other laws that are applicable to all employers. The government or private status of the employer is immaterial.
The first such law is the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976. It forbids discrimination against women at workplace on grounds of gender. This Act makes it compulsory for the employer to give equal pay to men and women for equal or similar work. It also forbids discriminating between men and women in matters of recruitment. The only exception is when the law itself prohibits or restricts employment of women.
The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 protects expectant mothers from unjust treatment because of pregnancy. It provides an entire range of benefits and protections to pregnant mothers. These benefits are available during as well as after their pregnancy. Moreover, recent amendments to this Act in 2016 enforce equality in its true sense by providing leaves to expectant fathers as well.
The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1955 is another important act. It provides equal opportunity and full participation to disabled individuals. It lists the following ailments as disabilities.
- Blindness and low-vision
- Mental retardation or illness
- Leprosy which has been cured
- Loco-motor or hearing disabilities
The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 intends to prohibit untouchability in all its forms. It was earlier known as Untouchability (Offence) Act. It states that no person can be denied employment on grounds of untouchability.
The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 is another Act that prohibits unfair labour practices.
Remedies against Discrimination
The type of remedy varies with the Act. Following are the most common remedies available under the governing Act.
- Disabled persons can approach the Commissioner or Chief Commissioner if their rights are violated.
- An employer who violates the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, Industrial Disputes Act, or Equal Remuneration Act is liable to imprisonment and/or fine.
- In case of breach of Fundamental Rights, a person can approach the Supreme Court for enforcing them. This right to go to the Supreme Court is a Fundamental Right in itself.
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