Sexual Harassment At Work Place: All You Need To Know (II)

WHO WILL PROTECT, PREVENT AND PROHIBIT?

This section goes in detail to explain who are the concerned authorities under the POSH Act, 2013 responsible to protect, prevent and prohibit Sexual Harassment at work place and implement the provisions of the Act at the grass root level.

Who Is An Employer?

An employer refers to:

  • The head of the department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit of the Appropriate Government or local authority or such officer specified in this behalf.
  • Any person (whether contractual or not) responsible for the management, supervision and control of a designated workplace not covered under clause (i).
  • A person or a household who employs or benefits from the employment of domestic worker or women employees.
Flow Chart
Who is an Employer

Who Is An Appropriate Government?

As per the Act, Appropriate Government means:

  • In relation to a workplace which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly—

a. By the Central Government or the Union Territory administration, the Central Government;

b. By the State Government, the State Government;

  • In relation to any workplace not covered under sub-clause (i) and falling within its territory, the State Government.

Who Is A District Officer (Do)?

State Governments will notify a District Magistrate/Additional District Magistrate/ Collector/

Deputy Collector as a District Officer at the local level. The District Officer will be responsible for carrying out the powers and functions under the Act at the district levels (including every block, taluka, tehsil, ward, and municipality).

Responsibilities Of The Aforementioned Authorities

Under the law, the employer/DO is obliged to create a workplace free of sexual harassment. It is the responsibility of the Employer/District Officer in general to:

  • Create and communicate a detailed policy;
  • Ensure awareness and orientation on the issue;
  • Constitute Complaints Committee/s in every workplace and district so that every working woman is provided with a mechanism for redress of her complaint(s);
  • Ensure Complaints Committees are trained in both skill and capacity;
  • Prepare an annual report and report to the respective state government;
  • District Officer will also appoint a nodal officer to receive complaints at the local level.

Complaints Committee

The Act provides for two kinds of complaints mechanisms: Internal Complaints Committee

(ICC) and Local Complaints Committee (LCC). All Complaints Committees must have 50 per cent representation of women. ICC or LCC members will hold their position not exceeding three years from the date of their nomination or appointment.

  • Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

Every employer is obliged to constitute an ICC through a written order. The ICC will be composed of the following members:

A. Chairperson Women working at senior level as employee; if not available then nominated from other office/units/ department/ workplace of the same employer

B. 2 Members (minimum) From amongst employees committed to the cause of women/ having legal knowledge/experience in social work

C. Member From amongst NGO/associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issue of Sexual Harassment

Where the office or administrative units of a workplace are located in different places, division or sub-division, an ICC has to be set up at every administrative unit and office. The employee who had a fundamental right to a workplace free of sexual harassment had complained about sexual harassment. According to the Court, had the organisation complied with the Vishakha Guidelines and set up such a Complaints Committee, the preventative benefit would have been three-fold:

A. Ensured a place where women employees could seek redress;

B. Sent a clear message to the workplace that such complaints would be enquired into by a specially designated committee with external expertise;

C. Prevented a series of litigation that followed.

Hence, the Madras High Court awarded Rs. 1.68 crores in damages to an employee for the non-constitution of a Complaints Committee by the employer, as per the Vishakha Guidelines (at the time of the complaint, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 had not been enacted). Ms. G v. ISG Novasoft Technologies Ltd. Madras High Court

  • Local Complaints Committee (LCC)

The District Officer will constitute an LCC in every district so as to enable women in the unorganized sector or small establishments to work in an environment free of sexual harassment. The LCC will receive complaints:

A. From women working in an organisation having less than 10 workers;

B. When the complaint is against the employer himself;

C. From domestic workers.

Composition:

  • 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

One of the nominees shall be a woman belonging to the SC/ST/OBC/Minority community notified by the Central Government.