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Combatting Discrimination and Harassment: A Guide to Workplace Rights in Malaysia

Within the diverse tapestry of Malaysia's workplaces, concerns about discrimination and harassment, particularly concerning gender, race, and religion, continue to be relevant issues. This article explores the legal framework in Malaysia surrounding workplace discrimination and harassment, elucidating the rights and protections afforded to employees.

Legal Framework Against Discrimination

In Malaysia, a robust legal framework exists to safeguard employees from discrimination and harassment. The Employment Act of 1955, a cornerstone legislation, explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or nationality. This legislation ensures fair treatment in various employment facets, encompassing recruitment, terms of employment, and promotions. Furthermore, the Penal Code (Amendment) Act of 2013 criminalizes sexual harassment, including unwelcome advances, comments, or behaviour of a sexual nature that creates a hostile work environment. Additionally, the proposed Gender Equality Act aims to address gender-based discrimination in the workplace, seeking to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination.

Types of Discrimination

Workplace discrimination in Malaysia manifests in various forms.

  1. Gender discrimination occurs when individuals are unfairly treated based on their gender, affecting hiring, pay, promotions, or work conditions.

  2. Racial discrimination involves bias or prejudice based on a person's race or ethnicity, impacting opportunities and work relationships.

  3. Religious discrimination dictates that employees should not face bias due to their religious beliefs, practices, or attire.

Rights and Protections for Employees

Malaysian employees are endowed with rights and protections against discrimination. The right to equal opportunity ensures that employees have equal access to opportunities, irrespective of their gender, race, or religion. Moreover, the right to a harassment-free workplace places the responsibility on employers to maintain a work environment free from all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment. Employees also have the right to file complaints with their employers or relevant authorities if they experience discrimination or harassment.

Reporting Discrimination and Harassment

In the event of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, employees are advised to follow specific reporting procedures. Internally, incidents should be reported to HR or a designated authority within the organization, adhering to the company's grievance procedure. If the issue persists, external reporting avenues include contacting the Department of Industrial Relations or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM). In severe cases, legal remedies through the courts are available to aggrieved employees.

Discrimination and harassment based on gender, race, or religion have no place in the modern Malaysian workplace. It is imperative for employees to be cognizant of their rights and protections under Malaysian law and ready to assert them when necessary. Simultaneously, employers play a pivotal role in fostering an inclusive and respectful work environment devoid of discrimination and harassment. Through collaborative efforts, both employees and employers can ensure that workplaces in Malaysia are fair, diverse, and welcoming for all.

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