New regulations related to the sexual harassment at work has been established and properly implemented since 2013 when it was first initiated. With the advent of the Me Too movement, more emphasis has been placed on this particular topic with the aim of creating a safe environment in the work place. Since women encompass around half of the total global population, it is very important to ensure their safety at the work place and provide them protection of their rights and the status at the workplace. Keeping all these in mind, the government of India has incorporated the “Sexual Harassment at Work” Act which is also known as the “Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal” Act and it was done so in the year 2013. The information related to this topic will be covered in this article.
What does Workplace Sexual Harassment mean?
The following criteria given below fall under the “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013” the list given below can be called a sexual harassment if it happens or its presence is there connected with any behavior or act of sexual harassment.
- Humiliating treatment which can possibly affect her safety or health.
- Explicit or implied promise of the preferential treatment within her employment.
- Explicit or implied threat of any detrimental treatment within her employment.
- Something that interrupts her work or creates an offensive or intimidating or even hostile work environment for her.
The following actions and behaviors fall under the category of Sexual Harassment.
- Demand or the request for any sexual favor.
- Physical contact.
- Sexually implied remarks.
- Displaying pornography.
- Any other physical, non-verbal or verbal conduct or behavior of the sexual nature.
The Responsibilities of the Employers
Under the regulations of this Act, the employers have to perform the responsibilities and duties as follows.
- The employer must ensure that the employees are working in a safe environment and should have rules that protect the women from the people who come in contact with the other employees.
- The punishments and penalties of the sexual harassments which belong to the Internal Committee in the sub-section 1 of the Section-4 of the Act should be displayed anywhere where it is more prominent and visible. According to this, should established a written form which will constitute a group called as the “Internal Complaints Committee”. This is done especially for those companies where the administrative unit and the workplace are located in different places or are present in the sub-divisional or the divisional level. It is important to have one of such committees in every administrative section. All the complaints along with those related to harassment will be reported here.
- It is better to arrange workshops and similar programs related to awareness about the sexual harassment from time to time in order to remind the employees about the punishments and penalties related to this particular crime as well as a type or orientation function for the new members of the Internal Committee.
- The Local Committee or the Internal Committee are to be provided with the important facilities so that they properly deal with the complaints and arrange enquiries.
- Ensure that the attendance of the respondent and the witnesses have proper security and not threatened by any outer parties.
- Make all the information related to “Sexual Harassment at Work” Act which is also known as the “Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal” Act available to the employees so that they are aware what to complain about or what to report.
- Ensure that the woman who is going to report a file is properly assisted. This complaint has to be related to the Act in discussion.
- Following the Penal Code of India, 1860, initiate the necessary action against the perpetrator after the woman has filed the complaint against the perpetrator who may not be an employee but the action happened in the work place.
- Sexual harassment is a serious misconduct which demands necessary action against it.
- The employer has to properly monitor and examine the reports that are duly submitted by the Internal Committee.
How to Form the Internal Committee
The punishments and penalties of the sexual harassments which belong to the Internal Committee in the sub-section 1 of the Section-4 of the Act should be displayed anywhere where it is more prominent and visible. According to this, should established a written form which will constitute a group called as the “Internal Complaints Committee” which will look after the cases of sexual harassment at work. This is done especially for those companies where the administrative unit and the workplace are located in different places or are present in the sub-divisional or the divisional level. It is important to have one of such committees in every administrative section. All the complaints along with those related to harassment will be reported here.
The Internal Complaints Committee has to be formed with the members given below who will be nominated by the employer.
- A Presiding Officer who will be a woman who is employed at a senior level at the workplace chosen from amongst the employees.
- Minimum 2 Members from amongst employees who are preferably committed to the betterment of women or those who have had similar experience in social work or at least have the legal knowledge.
- One member from the non-government organizations or the associations which are committed to the development of women or any person who is familiar with the issues that are related to the sexual misdemeanor.
It is very important that half of the Internal Committee must consist of women all the time. Starting from the date of the nomination, the members of the Committee along with the Presiding Officer can hold their position for up to 3 years.
Area of Power of the Internal Complaints Committee
The Internal Committee of the work place generally has the same powers which are owned by the “Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908”. This is applicable for the areas given below in terms with the sexual harassment at work.
- To ask for the the discovery and the production of the documents.
- To summon and to enforce the attendance of any employee and to examine him or her on oath.
- Any other such matters which may be mandated.
The complainant can ask for the following charges as suggested by the Internal Committee.
- Grant leave to the anguished woman up to a time span of 3 months.
- Grant similar relief to the anguished woman as may be required.
- Transfer the respondent or the anguished woman to a different workplace.
How to File a Complaint
The complaint about the sexual harassment must be done within 3 months of the occurrence by the complainant. But there are multiple occurrences, then in that case, the complaint has to be filed within 3 months of the last incident.
The format of the complaint has to be written and it is to be submitted directly to the Board of the Internal Complaint Committee. The complaint can either be posted via mail or in person. It should be mentioned that the Committee has the power to extend the time limit for the report if they see fit but the time must not exceed 3 months, given that the incidents that took place somehow prevented the woman from filing a complaint within those 3 months.
If the complainant cannot file the written complaint herself due to physical injury or inability, then the list of people given below can do so on behalf of her.
- The relative or the friend of the woman
- Co-worker of the woman
- A reputed officer of the “National Commission for Women” or “State Women’s Commission”
- Any witness who knows about the incident along with the written consent of the anguished woman.
If the complainant cannot file the written complaint herself due to mental incapacity or inability, then the list of people given below can do so on behalf of her.
- The relative or the friend of the woman
- Any qualified psychologist or psychiatrist
- Any special educator
- The authority or the guardians who are taking care of her treatment or care
- Any witness who knows about the incident along with the relative or the friend of the woman or any qualified psychologist or psychiatrist or any special educator or the authority or the guardians who are taking care of her treatment or care
Finally, if the complainant cannot file the written complaint about the sexual harassment at work herself due to physical injury or inability; due to mental incapacity or inability or death, then the written complaint can be submitted by the legal heir of hers.
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