Saturday, July 13, 2019

Say NO To Sexual Harrasment At Workplace

The legal bug in me always excites me to share something special with my readers which can be beneficial to them. I have been the member of the Sexual Harassment Committee which is referred as ICC (Internal Control Committee) in my previous companies. So lets take a look on what is Sexual Harassment at workplace and how it can be reported to ICC.

Sexual harassment of a woman in workplace is of serious concern. To tackle the problem of sexual harassment, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (“Ministry”),  passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. So how this act came into existence? This act is based on Vishakha Guidelines. This Act was enacted after 16 years of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Vishaka & Ors. vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors. (1997 (7) SCC 323) which was filed by NGOs because of the brutal gang-rape of a social worker while she was at work. The Supreme Court, in this case had held that sexual harassment at work place is violative of constitutional rights of women. Sexual harassment can be in office or at workplace related to office. Any molestation in taxi by an employee/boss/senior/junior while going to some other place related to work falls under sexual harassment at workplace. This is just one example. Ladies its high time you should be aware of your rights at workplace. Any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer comes under the definition of Workplace.

What is Sexual Harrasment- Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour that’s offensive, humiliating. It can be written, verbal or physical."Sexual harassment" includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:(i) physical contact and advances; or

(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or

(iii) making sexually coloured remarks; or

(iv) showing pornography; or

(v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality. It is basically subjective in nature, its all about how comfortable you are. For instance a pat on back by a boss on employee can be comfortable for one and uncomfortable for other. It all depends upon the interpretation of the person. Its all about how you feel, even verbal abuse falls in sexual harassment. Like statements " you old white cow, give me the status of work", such statements can fall under sexual harassment. Rude or offensive comments about gender identity can be sexual harassment. No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace. 
The constitution of ICC is mandatory for every Company having 10 or more employees and all the cases should be reported to ICC. More than 50% of the members should be female of the committee and one independent member to maintain the transparency of the committee. Any aggrieved woman can file a complaint of sexual harassment to IC within 3 months of the incident. The period within which one can file the complaint can also be extended to another period of three months. IC will inquire into the complaint and give both parties a chance to be heard and complete the inquiry in 90 days. During the inquiry process of being heard, neither party will be allowed to bring their lawyer.Post inquiry, IC will have to prepare an inquiry report giving recommendations on the matter, in 10 days, and give a copy of the same to the organization / company and the concerned parties. The organization / company will have to act on the recommendations in 60 days. The Act also provides that if a victim is dissatisfied with the findings of IC, she can appeal to a Court / tribunal. IC has been assigned with the responsibility to submit an annual report on the no. of cases that arose and got settled during the year to the company and the company further has been mandated to include this information in its annual report and in cases of companies which do not prepare annual report, the companies are required to intimate such number of cases to the District Officer.

The fact is, if the behavior of a sexual nature reasonably makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, then it’s sexual harassment.This cases should not be hidden and should be told openly in the organisation. Sometimes witnesses works in the best ways to solve the case. If you are facing any such actions in your organisation and are not sure what are they exactly, share it with your colleagues discuss with them and take it to ICC. That's your right.

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