Anti- Discrimination In Labour Laws

Divyam Juneja

8 April 2024 6:52 AM GMT

  • Anti- Discrimination In Labour Laws

    Anti-discrimination laws in the realm of labour encompass legal provisions designed to prevent and proscribe discriminatory practises targeting employees or individuals specifically on the grounds of certain protected attributes. Main purpose of the anti-discrimination law is preventing discrimination related to matter of employer-employee transactions based on gender, sex, race,...

    Anti-discrimination laws in the realm of labour encompass legal provisions designed to prevent and proscribe discriminatory practises targeting employees or individuals specifically on the grounds of certain protected attributes. Main purpose of the anti-discrimination law is preventing discrimination related to matter of employer-employee transactions based on gender, sex, race, religion or anything based on certain attributes. In India protection is explicitly provided under Article 14[1] and Article 16[2] of Constitution of India which states that it is imperative that every individual be protected against disqualification or discrimination in State employment or public office on the grounds of their gender, caste, or place of birth. States possess the authority to promulgate laws that may appear to confer preferential treatment upon women via affirmative action initiatives. Although this may seem contradictory to fundamental rights, it is really consistent with the notion of equity. It is the duty of the state to provide the protection of individuals who encounter disparities in opportunities and underrepresentation. Attaining genuine equality may necessitate the provision of further resources or opportunities to specific groups, particularly those who have endured historical marginalisation. These differences may be attributed to causes such as the caste system or deeply entrenched gender biases originating from patriarchal social norms. In instances of this nature, affirmative action serves as a mechanism to equalise the competitive landscape and guarantee equity in both opportunities and representation. This position has been reiterated in several cases in Indian Jurisprudence. One such case of N M Thomas v State of Kerala Article[3], the Supreme Court ruled that preferential treatment given to under-represented backward classes is acceptable if it is reasonable and has a logical connection to the stated goal.

    In USA, this concept has been elaborated In the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke,[4] Justice Powell articulated a clear concept of what is protected by Equal Protection. He placed significant emphasis on the notion that the protection against classifications based on race or ethnicity is a right that extends to the person, rather than solely to a collective entity. This particular approach places emphasis on individual rights as opposed to collective affiliation, hence advocating for the principle of formal equality. According to Powell (year), this measure guarantees that individuals are not subjected to unjust treatment on the basis of their group identity, irrespective of their racial or ethnic background, or their gender. This interpretation is consistent with a dedication to ensuring equitable consideration and regard for every member of society.

    Conundrum Related To Equal Pay Equal Work

    In India, the issue of persistence of gender discrimination in India can be attributed to deeply ingrained social perceptions about women and the pervasive impact of patriarchy. These biases have an impact on employment practises, leading to disparities in compensation and restricted access to opportunities. Although certain organisations may place a greater emphasis on talents, it is important to acknowledge that societal conventions continue to influence the recruiting process. Consequently, it became crucial to tackle the matter of ensuring equal compensation for identical tasks. The principle of equal pay for equal effort underscores the notion that every individual hired for a position should receive equivalent pay. There shouldn't be wage discrimination. It is often used to talk about sexual harassment and the pay gap between men and women. That being said, it is important to remember that the idea of equal pay for equal work only applies to situations that are similar. It can't be applied to different situations. So, it's not possible to compare daily-rated workers to regular state employees when it comes to pay. There are differences between these two groups of workers in terms of qualifications, age, and how they were chosen.The Supreme Court addressed the rules for equal compensation for equal work in the case of Kishori Mohanlal Bakshi vs. Union of India,[5] but deemed them impractical to execute in a court of law.

    A compensation disparity between graduate supervisors with engineering degrees and non- graduate supervisors with diplomas and licences was found as fair in the case of Markendeya vs. State of Andhra Pradesh[6]. The court ruled that the difference in wages did not go against Articles 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution. Drawing attention to the equality principle, the court said that two groups of employees should be paid the same if they have the same academic credentials, do similar work, and have the same amount of responsibility.

    The principle of equality and non-discrimination is protected by interpretations of constitutional laws, even if it is not officially stated as a constitutional or fundamental right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights supports providing equitable pay for labour of same worth, without any discriminatory practices.The notion of gender equality in remuneration is reinforced by the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976[7] in India. This legislation guarantees that both male and female employees receive equal pay and prohibits any kind of gender-based discrimination in many facets of employment. Violations of these provisions can be legally contested in a court of law

    There are still problems in this area particularly in the private sector and the unorganised labour market. While government positions tend to have equal pay, discrepancies occur elsewhere. Wage disparities are caused by a variety of causes. Limited restrictions in the private sector, as well as unequal negotiating power between employers and employees, contribute to these disparities, particularly in low-wage occupations. Wage discrepancies based on gender are also widespread, with women earning less than males for comparable labour. The unorganised sector, which operates outside of official regulations, has even greater difficulties. Workers in this sector, which employs a sizable section of India's workforce, frequently lack job security, decent wages, and benefits.

    The issue of anti-discrimination in labour laws is of paramount importance in ensuring a fair and equitable workplace for all individuals. While India has made significant strides in enshrining principles of equality and non-discrimination in its constitution and various labour laws, there are still challenges that need to be addressed, especially in the private sector and the unorganized labour market. In the context of Indian jurisprudence, where anti- discrimination labour laws are not codified explicitly, it becomes even more crucial to adapt and amend existing labour laws to explicitly address discrimination issues. This would provide a stronger legal framework and clearer guidelines for addressing discrimination in all its forms in the labour sector. Historically, anti-discrimination laws mainly addressed group- based inequalities related to race, national origin, ethnicity, sex, and religion, focusing on horizontal disparities. When trying to solve problems like poverty and social inequality, people have usually focused on closing the gaps between employers and workers and making sure that socially and economically disadvantaged people can join the official job market. But more and more people are realising that anti-discrimination rules need to cover more situations. This means admitting that being poor and having a low socioeconomic status are big forms of discrimination that affect groups that are usually covered by anti-discrimination laws more than others. These groups include women, racialized communities, and people with disabilities. This broader view emphasises the idea that people shouldn't be discriminated against because they are poor or because they are part of socially or economically marginalised groups. In essence, it underscores the importance of addressing both horizontal and vertical inequalities to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

    Views are personal.

    [1] Constitution of India, art. 14.

    [2] Constitution of India, art. 16.

    [3] N M Thomas v State of Kerala Article (1976) 2 SCC 310

    [4] Regents of Univ. of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978)

    [5] Kishori Mohanlal Bakshi Vs. Union Of India AIR 1962 S.C. 1139

    [6] Markendeya vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1989) 3 SCC 191

    [7] qual Remuneration Act, 1976

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