Ten Things You Need to Know About the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Law

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2012 is “An Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.”

Sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman guaranteed under the Constitution of India. These rights include the right to equality, right to life and to live with dignity, and right to practice any profession or carry on an occupation/trade/business which includes a right to safe environment free from sexual harassment.

With reference to the Vishaka Guidelines enumerated by the Supreme Court of India in 1997, the law hopes to redress as well as prevent cases of sexual harassment in all workplaces across India.

 

1. The law applies to women harassed in the workplace including women working as domestic workers, daily wagers, temporary or permanent, full-time or part-time, as well as volunteers. The women may or may not be employed and can be of any age. The law is only applicable to women and women only.

 

2. Sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior:

  • Physical contact or advances
  • A demand or request for sexual favours
  • Making sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

If the following circumstances exist in relation to any behavior, that is, if any act is done under the following circumstances that would also count as sexual harassment:

  • Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment
  • Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in employment
  • Implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status
  • Interferes with work or creates an intimidating/hostile/offensive work environment
  • Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health and safety.

 

3. The act of harassment can occur in the workplace and also if a woman is harassed while visiting a place arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the office, a complaint can be filed under this Act.

 

4. The Act requires all workplaces to set up Internal Complaints Committees to address the issue of sexual harassment. There will also be a Local Complaints Committee for each District where complaints can be filed.

 

5. An aggrieved woman can file a complaint within 3 months of the incident (or later if allowed by the committee).

6. The Act provides the option of a settlement between the aggrieved woman and the responded through conciliation but only on the request of the woman. However, money compensation cannot be a basis for the settlement.

 

7. The inquiry has to be completed within 90 days.

 

8. In case of malicious complaints or false evidence, the Committee may take action against the woman/person. However, simply not being able to prove an allegation will not mean that it is a false/malicious complaint.

 

9. The identity of the aggrieved woman, respondent, witnesses as well as other details of the complaint cannot be published or disclosed to the public/media.

10. The Act also hopes to prevent such incidents by placing a duty on employers to hold regular workshops/awareness programmes as well as, display the consequences of harassment in the workplace. Every employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment to all employees.

Author:

Rubina Singh is Director of Hollaback! Chandigarh.

11 Responses

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  1. Shruti says:

    Hi,

    Can you also suggest a link where you can file a complaint like this?

    thnaks
    Shruti

    • Rubina says:

      Hi Shruti,

      Under the Act, each office is required to have a sexual harassment cell/committee where you can file a complaint. In case your office doesn’t have one already, you can ask them to create one. Until then, you can file a complaint in your local police station. Harassment is harassment, irrespective of where it happens.
      If you need any more assistance or legal counsel, please feel free to get in touch with us at chd@ihollaback.org and we’ll do what we can to help :)

      Rubina

  2. [...] got started. This week, the site posted an essential resource on their site this week titled, “Ten Things You Need to Know About the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Law,” breaking down important facts and clarifications on the anti-sexual harassment law put in place in [...]

  3. Tara says:

    @Shruti – I really hope you’re doing ok – please don’t be afraid to contact the ACLU if you are US based or your country’s specific labor rights group if you can. Worst case scenario – contact a reporter or try to draw some attention to your case!

  4. Bharati says:

    Hi,
    I was facing discomfort at my work place due to one of my colleagues. He would scan my entire body inappropriately. He also asked me out for a date. Even after complaining to my Boss verbally, his behavior did not improve. After that I started avoiding him religiously. Recently, my Boss assigned both of us to the same project for which we were required to travel out of Mumbai. He again harassed me there and when I again complained to my boss, he did not take any action due to which I resigned. Subsequently, my HR manager told me to change the reason of the resignation which I refused and asked me to send his request in writing, which he did not. Also, the Company cut my salary with retrospective effect, which they say has been done for the team. When I asked them to release my salary since I have resigned and I have not accepted the salary cut, they threatened me that they will not give my experience letter till I sign on a no due certificate in which they are changing the date of my resignation. Pls advise what I should do.

    • Rubina says:

      Hi Bharati,

      Thank you for sharing your story and more power to you for speaking up!
      If your company is not responding to your complaint, you can file a complaint with your local police station. While the law has still not been enforced, there are guidelines in place under which you can file a complaint.
      You can also file a separate complaint against your company for not implementing the Sexual Harassment at Workplace law.

      If you need any assistance, let us know! We can help in arranging legal help/counselling where you are. Email us at chd@ihollaback.org

      -Rubina

  5. AMRUTA says:

    Rubina mam I faced the same problem.
    I m a Lecturer at an engg College. The Gents staff here are harrassing me since last three yrs. I hv been complaining the Principal and management about evrything but they in returned scolded me for unnecessary reasons. Recently I hd been to the Principal to get a Casual leave for one day to which he shouted at me badly & did not allow me to go on a leave. A lady staff member is supporting these people to harrass me.
    I tried to complain in the nearby Police station bt the Managemnt being very rich i cudnt do anything.
    Fed up of these things I left the Job.
    I didnt evn get the experiance certificate although I workd fr 4 years n 3 mnths
    Kindly help me Mam

  6. niketa says:

    sexual harassment at work place is criminal offence or civil offence and which proof require to prove

    • Rubina says:

      It’s a tricky space right now because sexual harassment has been made an offence under the IPC but under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, it is a civil offence. Proof would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.

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