Sending inappropriate messages to a subordinate co-worker beyond office hours would constitute sexual harassment in the workplace, the Rajasthan High Court held on Monday.
Justice Sanjeev Prakash Sharma passed the ruling while rejecting a challenge to the harassment charges on the ground that the complainant and the accused were in different States.
In this case, a senior official of the Bank of Baroda was accused of harassing a woman posted in a different State through messages sent beyond working hours.
Since the Bank of Baroda Officer Employees’ (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1976 stated that inquiry could only be initiated if sexual harassment occurred in the workplace, the accused disputed the charges on the ground that no such act had occured in a common workplace. The Court rejected this contention, observing:
“In the present digital world, work place for employees working in the Bank and who have earlier worked in the same Branch and later on shifted to different branches which may be situated in different States has to be treated completely as one work place on a digital platform. Thus, if a person may be posted in Jaipur and acts on a digital platform harassing another lady who may be posted in a different State, it would come within the ambit of being harassed in a common work place.“
Additionally, it was submitted that the allegedly obscene messages were sent after working hours. The Court rejected this contention as well, observing that the accused held a senior-level position. As such, his work timings were not confined to being between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm.
The Court added that the accused-petitioner fully knew that the complainant was in employment with the Bank and holding a subordinate post. Therefore, sending her such messages after working hours would amount to causing harassment.
Thus, the petitioner’s conduct, in the Court’s view, prima facie fell within the meaning of misconduct under the Bank of Baroda Officer Employees’ (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1976.
Finding the case of the petitioner to be without any basis, the writ petition was accordingly dismissed.
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