What is sexual harassment at the workplace?
A. An unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which a reasonable person would anticipate would cause a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated constitutes sexual harassment.
Q. Does India have Special law against sexual harassment at workplace?
A. Yes. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
Q. What are the Vishakha Guidelines?
A. In the year 1997, the Supreme Court has laid down a set of guidelines in the landmark judgment of Vishaka v.State of Rajasthan, which used to be the law on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace till the SHA came into effect in 2013. The basic principles of the Vishakha guidelines form the basis of SHA.
Q. To whom does the Act applies?
A. It applies to all the employers and workplaces as defined under the Act.
Q. What constitutes sexual harassment at workplace?
- Touching and other unwanted physical contact, such as kissing or fondling.
- Demanding or asking for sexual favors.
- Saying something that is sexual in nature, such as overt sexual innuendos etc.
- Remarks about person’s sexual orientation or sex life, showing porn.
- Creating a hostile work environment for a woman in connection with any of above.
Q. Would flirting in the office count as sexual harassment?
A. Yes, if the flirting is without your consent and involves sexual comments that make you uncomfortable, it counts as sexual harassment.
Q. Confidentiality of complaint?
A. The Act prohibits the disclosure of the identity and addresses of the aggrieved woman, respondent and witnesses.
Q. What are the Rights of the Employee under the Act?
- Safe working environment at the workplace.
- Provide assistance to the woman if she chooses to file a complaint.
- Provide necessary facilities to the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry etc.
Q. What is the Punishment under the Act?
A. Whosoever does any act which amounts to sexual Harassment at workplace will be punished under section 509 of the IPC with a simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Q. Can a man file a complaint of sexual harassment against a woman?
A. SHA is gender specific, Act only deals with sexual harassment of a woman.
(The author, Prachi Mishra, is a Supreme Court lawyer and Additional Advocate General, Chhattisgarh)