THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION & REDRESSAL) ACT, 2013
The object of the Act is to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and also for the prevention and reducing of complaints of sexual harassment and other connected and incidental issues.
The Act is applicable across India to all establishments. government and private. Even domestic women workers are also given protection under the purview of this Act. (The date of Enforcement of the Act is awaited)
Misconduct of any kind which creates an intimidating. hostile or offensive work environment. which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance and or which adversely affects an individual's employment is termed as harassment.
Sexual Harassment is defined as an unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) such as:
- Physical conduct and advances
A demand or request for sexual favours or
Making sexually coloured remarks or
- Showing pornography or
Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The harassment in relation to or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment as follows amount to serious misbehaviour and the same is required to be viewed seriously.
- Implied or implicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment or
- Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment or
- Implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status or
- Interference with work or creating and intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her or
Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.
Every employer is obliged to constitute a committee known as “internal complaint committee' at different administrative units or offices, divisions or subdivisions of his establishments. This committee should consist of the following members/employees nominated by employer,
- Presiding officers who shall be woman employed at a senior level at workplace
- Two members who are committed to the cause of women or have any legal knowledge or have work experience in social issues
One member from the non-governmental organisation or association committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment.
Committee should consist of at least four members including presiding officer and it shall hold office maximum for a period of three years from the date of their appointment. it is necessary that all times minimum 50% of the members of this committee must be women.
This Act further provides for parallel grievance redress committee namely “local compliant committee'.
Procedure for dealing the complaints
Any aggrieved woman may make a written complaint of sexual harassment at workplace either to internal committee if it is in place or local committee within three months from the date of the incident or in use of repeated incidents within the period of three months from the date of last incident. However, if she is unable to make a written complaint then the chairperson of either of the committees should offer all the help and support and assistance to the woman for making the written complaint
Both the committees will have power to condone the delay if arises in filing the harassment complaint for the justifiable reasons to be recorded in writing. If the aggrieved woman is unable to make complaint due to her physical or mental incapacity or death than even legal heirs or any other such authorised person can make complaint to the committees in writing.
Before the enquiry be initiated on the basis of the complaint received, a chance should be given to aggrieved woman to take steps to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation. In the event of settlements, committee should record the settlement in writing arrived between the parties and should send it to the employer or district officer to take action and copies of the settlement so recorded to be provided to both the parties also. in the event that the issue is settled the same be closed. The conditions of the settlement are not implemented then the aggrieved woman can request the committee to proceed with the enquiry which is required to be conducted in accordance with the applicable rules.
If enquiry committee where local or internal prima facia found that there is substance in the complaint and case exist against me respondent than it should forward the complaint to the police within the period of seven days for (taking action as per section 509 of Indian Penal Code. After receipt of such complaint, police authority may file a charge sheet against the accused. On conviction the court will have power to grant an order for payment of such sum as it may consider appropriate to the aggrieved woman as compensation.
The internal or local committee for conducting the enquiry shall have the same powers as civil court as per the civil procedure code. The committee can summon and enforce attendance of the person and examine them on oath. it can also direct and enforce production of documents. The enquiry will have to be completed by the committee within 90 days
During the enquiry proceeding committee can ask the employer on request received from the aggrieved woman to transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace, grant leave to the aggrieved woman upto the period of three months, grant such other appropriate relief to the aggrieved woman.
Leave granted on the recommendation of the committee shall be in addition to the regular leaves available to the women employee. it is the obligation of the employer to implement all the recommendations of the committee and send reports of such implementation back to the committee again.
On completion of the enquiry both internal or local committee within 10 days should submit the report of its findings to the employer or district officer as well as copy of the same should be made available to the concerned parties.
If me committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegations against the respondent has been proved then it can recommend the employer or district officer as follows:
1. To take action against the respondent as misconduct in accordance with the service rules.
2. To direct the respondent to pay such reasonable amount from is salary or wages as compensation to any woman or her legal heirs If employer Is unable to make any deductions the salary or wages of the respondent then such amount can be recovered from the respondent directly.
If the payment Is not made by the respondent to the employee then it should be recovered from the respondent as if it is arrears of land revenue. It' is the obligation of the district officer or employer to act upon the recommendations of the committee within 60 days from the receipt of the same.
While deciding the compensation amount payable to the affected woman the committee is expected to take into consideration the mental trauma, pain, suffering, emotional distress, the loss of career opportunity, medical expenses. it is also expected from the committee to consider the income and financial status as well as the financial capacity of the respondent to pay the compensation. Committee can direct the respondent to pay compensation in lumpsum or in instalments.
The proceedings of the committee & its report should not be published, communicated or made known to the press or media in any manner and the person who contravenes the provision and publishes the report is liable for punishment.
The Act also provides very important aspect about providing safe working environment at the workplace to the Men employees i.e.
- Employer should display in writing at main place penal consequence of the sexual harassment and information about the internal committee.
- Organise workshops and awareness programme at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions of the Act.
- Employer should organise programmes for orientation of the members of the internal committee.
- Employer should provide the necessary facilities to internal committee dealing with the complaints for conducting. the enquiry
- Assist in securing attendance of the respondent and witnesses before the internal committee, make available such information to the committee for the smooth processing of the compliant.
- Provide assistance to the woman if she chooses to tile complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Pena Code.
- Treat sexual harassment as misconduct under the service rules and initiate action for such misconduct, monitor the timely submission of the reports of the internal committee.
Both internal and local committees are expected to submit an annual report to the employer or district officer a; the case may be thereafter district officer should send a brief report of the state government.
Appropriate government is expected to offer financial support as and when required for orientation and training of the members of the local committee as well as for information, education and communicating and organise awareness programme in respect of the provisions of this Act and for protection of harassment of woman at workplace
If it is found that the complaint made by the employee is false or any witnesses give false evidence before the committee then action can be initiated as per the prevailing rules or any other provision of law. However, in case the complaint is not proved before the committee for inadequate proof in such a case it cannot be considered that the complaint is false or malicious.
if any employer fails to constitute an internal committee or take action against the respondent or contravenes of attempt to contravene or abets contravention of any provision of the Act then a fine of at least Rs.50,000/- shall be charged. If the offence is repeated than double the amount of the fine previously paid is required to be imposed as penalty. If the authority is of the view that higher punishment is required to be imposed against the employer then authority can cancel or withdraw license of the business of the employer.
Only metropolitan magistrate or judicial Magistrate first-class will have authority to entertain the offences under this Act.