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Misconduct against women staff must be dealt with sternly: HC

bombay high court

Mumbai : Any misconduct against women employees must be dealt with most sternly, the Bombay High Court today said and asked organisations to draw up a list of “dos and dont’s” for male employees over conduct towards female staff.

A division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade referred to a judgement of the US Supreme Court and cited that “sexual misconduct cannot be viewed in a vacuum” and that employers and organisations must identify the “underlying threat of violence” in such conduct against women.

The observations were made by the high court while hearing a petition filed by a central government employee seeking action against her superior over allegations of sexual harassment.

The bench today noted that organisations must treat all complaints of sexual harassment seriously and without bias and that it was also necessary to provide safeguards and assistance to female employees.

“In the past, such behaviour would be ignored and terms as part of the work culture. It was even said that men had said or done things inadvertently. But now all organisations must change with the changing times. Any misconduct against women employees must be dealt with most sternly,” the court said.

The woman approached the high court after the internal committee at her workplace ruled that while the incidents she had reported against her superior did show that she had been inconvenienced and harassed, the same did not amount to sexual harassment.

The internal committee had penalised and demoted the superior. However, the woman sought harsher punishment for her superior.

The court today denied to increase the punishment and said it need not interfere with the committee’s decision.

According to the woman, between 2011 and 2013, her superior made several sexual advances at her and when she began to openly spurn his advances, he resorted to threatening her professional growth and career, insulting and humiliating her in front of other employees, and isolating her by asking others not to talk to her.

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