Kerala High Court protects fundamental rights of a woman facing workplace discrimination, due to absence from work

Kerala High Court: In a recent judgment passed by A. Muhamed Mustaque, J., the Court guarded the interest of a woman who was facing workplace discrimination on the account of being absent due to compelling family responsibility.

The brief facts being that the petitioner, Smt. K. T. Mini was working as an assistant since 24.11.1989, with the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), who due to discrimination at workplace was removed after her 17 years of unblemished and uninterrupted service. The petitioner had her second girl child in due course of her employment, and unfortunately after two years of her birth, the child suffered from chicken pox and eventually developed a tendency of Mild Autism.

The petitioner had to balance between both her work and taking care of her autistic child and in 2007 the petitioner decided to take her child to Chennai for better treatment and subsequently applied for a transfer to Chennai on 20.6.2007 and further applied for an extra ordinary leave on 29.6.2007. Leave was granted considering the reason till 30.4.2008.

Meanwhile the petitioner’s husband had a job in Bahrain and the petitioner on 21.4.2008 applied for an extension of leave for another 60 days on the account of taking her autistic child to Bahrain for treatment under moral support from her husband. However, this extension request was rejected by LIC and the petitioner was directed to rejoin the organisation within 15 days, but the petitioner failed to do so, as she was already occupied with her compelling family responsibility. Thus, LIC in its disciplinary action proceeded to remove the petitioner from the organisation by treating her unauthorised absence from service as misconduct and not justifying her continuation in service.

The Court held that “Motherhood is the mother of all civilizations” while relying on the landmark judgment of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1462 (Right to Privacy Case) and further putting reliance on various International Human Rights conventions decided that the petitioner be reinstated in service and further suggested the State, for an urgent requirement of a legislation to protect an employee from workplace discrimination based on family responsibility. [K. T. Mini v. Life Insurance Corporation Of India, W.P.(C)No. 22007 of 2012, decided on 20-12-2017]

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