1. What is Sexual Harassment at workplace?
Sexual Harassment is any unwelcome act or behavior (whether express or implied), such as:-
• Physical contact or advance
• A demand or request for sexual favours
• Making sexually coloured remarks
• Showing pornography
• Any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
Sexual harassment at workplace can take various forms. It can involve conduct such as:
• unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing
• staring or leering
• suggestive comments or jokes
• unwanted or persistent requests to go out
• intrusive questions about another person’s private life or body
• Deliberately brushing up against someone
• insults or taunts of a sexual nature
• sexually explicit pictures, posters, screen savers, emails, twitters, SMS or instant messages
• accessing sexually explicit internet sites
• inappropriate advances on social networking sites
• behavior which would also be an offence under the criminal law, such as physical assault indecent exposure sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications.
2. How many kinds of sexual harassment at workplace are there?
Sexual harassment of workplace is of two kinds:
• Quid pro quo
• Hostile work environment
3. What is ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Sexual Harassment?
‘Quid pro quo’ is a Latin term which literally means ‘this for that’.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment means subjecting a woman to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature on account of the following:
• To force the woman to agree with such conduct by promising/threatening her (explicitly or implicitly) preferential/detrimental treatment in her job. For example: if you agree to accompany me on a study tour, I will give you promotion or in case you refuse, I will transfer you other place.
• Submission to or rejection of such conduct by the woman is used as the basis for deciding the future course of her job. For example: if you refuse to obey my demand, I will not renew your contract.
4. What is ‘Hostile work environment’ Sexual Harassment?
Creation of a hostile, intimidating or an offensive work environment with the purpose of unreasonably interfering with woman’s work performance or subjecting woman to humiliating treatment likely to affect her health and safety.
5. What is unwelcome sexual conduct?
A sexual behaviour only becomes sexual harassment at workplace only if it is unwelcome to the woman who is in receipt of such behaviour.
6. What is workplace?
• Any department, organization, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit in the public sector; either established/owned, controlled or wholly or partly financed by funds received directly or indirectly by the government or local authority or a government company or corporation or a co-operative society.
• Any private sector organization or a private venture; undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non–governmental organization, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, entertainment, industrial, health services or financial activities including production, supply, sale, distribution or services.
• Hospitals or nursing homes.
• Any sports institutes, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, even the residence if used for training, sports or other related activities.
• Any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such journey.
• A dwelling place or house.
• Workplace of unorganized sector.
7. What is the Workplace in the Unorganized Sector?
An enterprise owned by individuals or self-employed workers:
• engaged in the production of goods
• engaged in the sale of goods
• providing service of any kind whatsoever
• Where the enterprise employs workers and the number of such workers is less than 10.
8. Who is ‘Aggrieved Women’?
“Aggrieved woman” means—
(i) In relation to a workplace, a woman, of any age whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment by the respondent;
(ii) In relation to dwelling place or house, a woman of any age who is employed in such a dwelling place or house.
9. Who can complain about Sexual Harassment at workplace?
Aggrieved Woman who is subjected to sexual harassment.
In case of Physical Incapacity of Aggrieved Woman:
a. Her relative
b. Her friend
d. Officer of NCW or SCW
e. Any person who has knowledge of the incident with the written consent of her.
In case of mental incapacity of Aggrieved Woman:
a. Her relative
b. Her friend
c. Special educator
d. Qualified Psychologist/Psychiatrist
f. Authority under whose care the Aggrieved Woman Complainant is receiving treatment/care
g. Any person who has knowledge of the incident jointly with any person mentioned above.
In case of death of Aggrieved Woman:
Any person with knowledge of the incident with written consent of legal heir.
10. If I am a victim of sexual harassment, what should I do?
If you feel comfortable in approaching the harasser yourself, you could directly tell the perpetrator that you find his behaviour unwelcome or inappropriate and ask him not to repeat.
You can approach the Internal Complaints Committee established within your organization under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013 with a written complaint.
In case, your organization does not have ICC due to number of employees less than 10 or if you want to make a complaint against the employer himself or if you work in the capacity of domestic help, then you can lodge your complaint with Local Complaints Committee established in your respective district under the SH Act.
You can contact the nearest police station to lodge an FIR against the perpetrator.
11. What is Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)?
Every organization has to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) having following members
• Chairperson – Women working at senior level in the organization
• 2 Members (at least) – Amongst employees committed to women issues, have legal knowledge or experience in social work
• 1 Member – from NGO (person having knowledge of POSH Act)
If the organization has workplaces located at different places or division or sub-division level, then ICC will be constituted at every workplace.
12. What is Local Complaints Committee (LCC)?
The State Government will notify the District Magistrate/Additional District Magistrate/ Collector/ Deputy Collector as District Officer in every district, who will constitute a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) so as to enable women in the unorganized sector or small establishments to work in an environment free of sexual harassment. The LCC will have following members:
• Chairperson- Nominated from amongst the eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women
• Member- Nominated from amongst the women working in the block, taluka or tehsil or ward or municipality in the district
• 2 Members- Nominated from amongst such NGO/ associations/persons committed to the cause of women or familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment,
Provided that: At least one must be a woman At least one must have a background of law or legal knowledge
• Ex Officio member – The concerned officer dealing with social welfare or women and child development in the district
13. How to locate ICC within your organization?
As per the Act, the employer is obligated to display the order constituting ICC at any conspicuous place in the workplace. However, if this is not done, then one can contact the employer/head of the department/human resource department to obtain information about the ICC constituted under the SH Act.
14. How to locate LCC in a particular district?
For locating LCC or one of its members, one can adopt following measures:
• Contact the District Officer’s office
• Contact One Stop Centre/Women Helpline (toll free through 181, 100 etc.) functioning in your district/State
• Contact the State Commission for Women
• Contact the State Department of Women and Child Development/department looking after women issues
15. What if ICC/LCC is not constituted in the organization/district?
Non constitution of Complaints Committee is punishable with a fine of Rs.50,000/- and repeat offenders will be punished with cancellation/withdrawal of licence/registration required for carrying on business activities.
In case of non-constitution of IC, the aggrieved can approach the District Officer to complaint about the same.
In case of non-constitution of LC, the aggrieved can approach the court to complain about the same.
16. How to make a complaint of sexual harassment at workplace under the SH Act?
A written complaint specifying the following, is required to be filed to the IC/LC, as the case may be:
• Name of Respondent (harasser)
• Date/time when the sexual harassment occurred
• Working relationship with Respondent
• Description of incident or number of incidents.
In case, aggrieved woman is unable to submit written complaint, the Complaints Committee will provide her all assistance so that the complaint could be submitted in written form.
17. What is the limitation for filing the complaint of sexual harassment at workplace?
The complainant has to submit six copies of the complaint along with all supporting documents within a period of three months from the date of incident / last date of the series of incidents happened on different dates as the case may be.
The ICC/LCC has the authority to extend the time limit by another three months on reasonable ground to be recorded in writing.
18. What will the Complaints Committee does when a complaint is submitted to it?
The Complaints Committee (ICC/LCC) will conduct an inquiry into the complaint by calling all the concerned parties i.e. complainant, respondent, witnesses etc. Later, on the basis of the testimonies of the concerned parties and evidences (documentary or otherwise) gathered, the Committee will frame its findings, which will be shared with the employer/District officer, as the case may be.
If the Committee comes to the conclusion that the allegations against the respondent are genuine, it shall recommend action that needs to be taken by the employer against such person. However, if the Committee concludes after inquiry that no case is being made against the respondent, it shall recommend that no action to be taken against the respondent.
19. Can the complainant ask for some interim relief during the inquiry from ICC?
During the inquiry, at the written request of complainant, ICC can provide following interim reliefs to the complainant:
• Transfer the complainant or respondent to any other place
• Grant leave to the complainant for upto 3 months in addition to her entitled leave
• Restrain the respondent from reporting on the work performance/ writing confidential report of aggrieved
• Restrain the respondent from supervising academic activities of aggrieved
20. What kind of punishment could be awarded under the Act?
• As prescribed under the Service Rules
In case service rules do not exist:
• Disciplinary action including written apology, reprimand, warning, censure withholding of promotion/ pay raise/ increment
• Termination of employment
• Undergo counselling
• Community service
• Deduction from salary for:
• Mental Trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused
• Medical expenses incurred
• The loss of career opportunity
• The income and financial status of respondent has to kept in mind
• If the amount is not paid it can be recovered as arrear of land revenue
21. Are there any timelines within which inquiry under the SH Act has to be completed?
Yes, the SH Act envisages a time bound inquiry which needs to adhere to following timelines:
Submission of Complaint Within 3 months of the last incident
Completion of Inquiry Within 90 days
Submission of Report by ICC/LCC to employer/DO Within 10 days of completion of the inquiry
Implementation of Recommendations by employer Within 60 days
Appeal Within 90 days of the recommendations
22. What about maintaining confidentiality of the cases related to sexual harassment at workplace?
The Act prohibits the disclosure of:
• Identity and address of complainant, respondent and witnesses
• Information pertaining to conciliatory/ inquiry proceedings or recommendation of ICC or action taken by the employer.
Breach of confidentially will invite a penalty of Rs. 5,000/- which will be collected by the employer/DO.
Exception: Dissemination of information regarding the justice secured without disclosure of name, address, identity and particulars of complainant or witnesses.
23. What are the obligations of employer under the SH Act?
• Formulation of an Anti Sexual Harassment Policy
• Display within organizations the penal consequences of sexual harassment at places where it could be viewed by majority of the people
• Create an ICC at each location and display their contact details
• Sensitization and training of employees and ICC members
• Provide administrative support and monitor timely submission of reports by ICC
• Mention the number of cases filed and disposed of under the SH Act within organization’s annual report.
• Help the aggrieved women in registering criminal case, if she so desires.
24. Can I register both FIR and lodge complaint with Complaints Committee at the same time?
Yes, a woman if she chooses to do so may both file the FIR with the police and complaint with Complaints Committee simultaneously.
25. What if I am not satisfied with the recommendations of Committee?
Aggrieved woman or the Respondent, both can file appeal against the recommendations before the Appellate Authority, as notified by State Government within a period of 60 days from the date of recommendations.
26. What if the committee found the complaint as false or malicious?
Making a false or malicious complaint or producing a forged or misleading document is an offence. IC/LC may recommend to the employer/DO to take action against the complainant in such manner as may be prescribed:
Provided further that the malicious intent on part of the complainant shall be established after an inquiry in accordance with the procedure prescribed, before any action is recommended.
27. Can a Transgender file a complaint under Act?
Only a transwoman can file a complaint under the SH Act.