In a modern Indian workplace, the use of profanity or cursing seems to be regular occurring feature given how liberal the younger work force can be with their words. An employee’s choice of language can result in legal trouble for the organization. In a recent incident, a female employee received an email from her editor. She was cursed at for not attending an office party. Offended by the abusive language used and the intent, she escalated the matter to HR. It was alleged that the issue was not satisfactorily acted upon. She approached the National Commission for Women, New Delhi who then recommended that she should lodge a FIR. She proceeded to do so against the editor. He then moved to the High Court of Bombay to quash the FIR. The two Judge Bench declined to do so and is has directed the investigating body to do so. The the contents of the said email, the events that led to the same would in all probability be examined to determine whether it would constitute an offence under Section 509  of the Indian Penal Code.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), Act introduced in 2013, deals with such situations. The object of the Act inter alia is to build a robust Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), to promote a healthy work environment, be equipped to handle matters and mediate between the two parties.
This incident brings to our attention that trivial matters can escalate to unexpected overtures. Companies need to be careful on how they deal with such issues and none can be taken lightly. The HR and the ICC have to train the supervisors, managers, and the employees on acceptable usage of language at the workplace. There is an element of subjectivity when it comes to perceiving cursing & profanity. The organization must gear its policies to address this.
Know more on Sexual Harassment law here.
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 Sec 509 of the Indian penal Code- Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. A cognizable and bailable offence, punishment of one year imprisonment and/or fine.
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