Prevention Of Sexual Harassment

Deeksha Singh, Product Manager

Rs.799

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Welcome to the Lexgyaan Session on POSH laws conducted by LexStart- Each starts up an online compliance manager. In this video, we will explain to whom the policies formulated pursuant to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment law prevent. Which entities cover what sexual harassment means and how an employee who has a grievance can get redressal under these policies.

  • The POSH Act and Rules which we will be referring to as the POSH laws provide for the protection of women. However, if your company or organization has a gender-neutral policy this protection would tend to protect men as well. The POSH laws protect any woman of any age whether she is employed or not by the employer.   So every women whether an employee, a visitor, a client or consultant or ad hoc employee or intern or even office staff are protected by this law.

 

The POSH laws cover 3 types of entities:

   1. Government Bodies

   2. Private Entities

   3. Individual

 

  • Govt. Bodies can include any central govt., state govt. or any other govt. authorities or any entity that the govt. has invested in or has an interest in it. Individuals refer only to the specific circumstance of individuals who are employed domestic workers and private entities under the law cover all Pvt. entities, ventures, organizations, enterprises. 

  • In layman terms, any Company, LLP, sole proprietorships, trust, Partnership firms, and societies don’t matter what kind of entity it is if it has employees subject to this law within the organization any person who is responsible for managing, supervising or controlling the workplace is considered an employer for the purpose of the law. As well as any person who is discharging a contractual obligation with respect to employees. This means even in a co-working space the person running that co-working space comes within the ambit of this law. 

  • Similarly, if you don’t have employees but you are in a space where you have hired people on contracts and they are visiting your workplace you are responsible for them.

 

This brings us to the question of what is the workplace?

  • Simple answer, any place the employee has to go to in the course of their employment including the transport provided by the employer so if you face Sexual Harassment on the work trip while commuting to a meeting you are still protected by the law.

  • Now let us come to the subject of the Sexual Harassment itself. There are some very obvious examples of objectionable behavior that come to people’s minds when this term is mentioned. However, as employees, it is essential for you to understand and that Sexual harassment can mean a number of things. 

  • The POSH laws specifically mention certain forms of behavior that are definitely considered sexual harassment and categorizes into 2 types:

1. Explicit

2. Implied

Explicit Sexual Harassment includes the following:

  • Any physical contact and advances

  • This doesn’t refer to al physical contacts, for eg. A handshake in itself is not to be considered Sexual harassment, however, a good threshold to follow is whether in a professional setting such physical contact is considered normal. So a handshake is fine but resting your arm on someone’s shoulder or hugging someone in the office may not be.

  • A demand or request for sexual favor is obviously unwelcome.

  • Making Sexually colored remarks- This could refer to anything from a joke to an abusive language or to the objectification of the co-workers.

  • Showing pornography – This could also refer to sexually explicit videos on youtube etc. which might make someone uncomfortable. Any other unwelcome, physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. The key thing to bear in mind is that if you are behaving in a way that is sexual in nature and is making someone uncomfortable your behavior can be deemed as sexual harassment. Where sexual harassment is concerned the consideration isn’t whether there is an intention to offend but rather that the person who was at the receiving end perceived it in that way.

 

Implied Sexual Harassment on the other hand –

  • This refers to certain circumstances that accompany a certain act or behavior which may be sexual in nature which leads to the conclusion that an employee is being harassed. So there might be that there is a one time statement or conduct which in itself may not constitute sexual harassment but a couple with these circumstances it becomes obvious that it is sexual harassment. These circumstances which particularly need to be borne in mind in senior-junior relationships it is based on the understanding that harassment need not be based on a one-time incident but it can be a pattern of behavior exhibited over a period of time

 

So what recourse do you have as an employee in case you are subjected to sexual harassment?

  • If your organization has an ICC, you can submit your complaint in writing to any member of the ICC if there is no ICC and if the employer is the perpetrator you can go to the local complaints committee. You have to submit 6 copies of the written complaint along with supporting documents and names and addresses of the witnesses to the ICC or the Local complaints committee within 3 months from the date of the incident. And in case of serious incidents within the period of 3 months from the date of the last incident. 

  • Keep in mind while it is to raise such issues the prompt the complaint is the more authentic it can be treated.

  • In instances where sufficient cause is demonstrated by the complainant filing the complaint, the timeline can be extended for reasons recorded in writing. 

  • The law also makes provision for friends, relatives, co-workers, psychologists or psychiatrists, etc. to file the complaint in situations where the employee cannot do it themselves.

  • So to give you a sense of the timelines, as mentioned before a written complaint has to be filed within 3 months of the incident which is extendable by another 3 months. Upon receipt of the complaint, one copy of the complaint is sent to the respondent within 7 days. 

  • The respondent is required to reply along with supporting documents with the names of the witnesses and addresses within 10 working days.

  • The inquiry has to be completed within a total of 90 days from the receipt of the complaint. The inquiry report has to be issued within 10 days from the date f completion of the inquiry. 

  • If the employer is required to do anything on the recommendations of the ICC or the local committee they have to do it within 60 days of the date of the inquiry report and any appeal against the decision of the committee is allowed within 90 days from the date of the recommendations.

  • With this, we come to the end of the video if you want to know more about the POSH laws your rights under these laws or how to comply with these laws feel free to reach out to us at support@lexstart.com over email or schedule a call with us on our website www.lexstart.com

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