Sexual harassment is a type of harassment which involves the use of explicit or implicit sexual overtones, including the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. Sexual harassment includes a range of actions from verbal transgressions to sexual abuse or assault.
Sexual harassment includes many things, such as;
· Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey
· Whistling at someone
· Making sexual comments about a person's body
· Turning work discussions to sexual topics
· Telling sexual jokes or stories
· Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history
· Asking personal questions about social or sexual life
· Making kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips
· Making sexual comments about a person's clothing, anatomy, or looks
· Repeatedly asking out a person who is not interested
· Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person's personal sex life NON-VERBAL
· Looking a person up and down (Elevator eyes)
· Staring at someone
· Blocking a person's path
· Following the person
· Giving personal gifts
· Displaying sexually suggestive visuals
· Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements
· Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips PHYSICAL
· Giving a massage around the neck or shoulders
· Touching the person's clothing, hair, or body
· Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking
· Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person
· Standing close or brushing up against another person
What is POSH Act?
In order to create a safe and protective work environment, the policy has been framed by the government, in line with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace which is known as the "POSH Act". The act made the employer responsible for creating a safe working environment. This meant that given the context of one’s workplace the management was responsible for preventing, prohibiting, and offering due redressing towards any incident of sexual harassment.
The POSH Act was crafted in a manner that would provide the utmost protection to any woman who faces sexual harassment either in the workplace or by any employee, client, or even a third party contractor associated with her workplace.
Applicability of the POSH Act?
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) at the workplace Act is applicable to every establishment or company employing 10 or more employees. Employee includes full-time, part-time, interns, or consultants.
How to register for POSH Act?
There is no registration required under POSH Act, every establishment is required to register their Internal Complaints Committee(ICC) with the respective state authorities. Under Section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH), it is mandatory for all workplaces having ten or more employees to frame an anti-harassment policy and constitute an Internal Complaints Committee(ICC) under the Act for each of the offices separately.
What is the 'Internal Complaints Committee'(ICC) under the POSH Act?
As per the POSH Act, the composition of the ICC shall be as follows;
1) Presiding officer: One senior-level woman employee of the Establishment(Current work location)
2) Two members: 2 members amongst the employees committed to the cause of woman/ experience in social work or legal knowledge
3) One member: This member should be from NGO/Association committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with issues of sexual harassment.
As per the POSH Act, at least one-half of the total members of the ICC nominated shall be women. It has been prescribed that the Presiding Officer and every Member of the Internal Committee shall hold office for such period not exceeding 3 years, from the date of their nomination as may be specified by the employer.
Is there any amount to pay towards POSH Act?
There are no government fees involved under POSH Act. But yes for committee member who is an outsider, for them a fixed amount for the year should be mutually agreed between employer and member. This member's role is of providing initial training and also will be part of the investigation of any mishap.
How to File POSH Return?
Every year, the establishment has to submit the Internal Committee's Annual Report which will cover the details of committee members and the details of complaints and cases handled by the committee throughout the year. The last date of submission of such an annual report to the District Officer is 31st January of every year for the preceding calendar year. The format of return will be available with the district office.
What are the duties of Employers in respect of the POSH Act?
# Provide a safe working environment, which shall include safety from persons coming to the workplace
# Display the penal consequences of workplace sexual harassment, and the order constituting the IC, at any conspicuous place at the workplace
# Conduct training programs to create awareness among employees at all levels
# Monitor the timely submission of the reports by the IC and assist in any manner required to enable the aggrieved woman to secure justice
# Carry out capacity building and skills development programs for IC members
# As a best practice, it is also beneficial that companies put up POSH Law related posters in conspicuous places or publish over companies ESS portal about what constitutes sexual harassment, and the composition and include the contact details and names of the Internal Committee members.
How often should the Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) meet?
It is a good practice for the ICC to meet at reasonable intervals or monthly. The POSH Act does not specifically mandate the manner in which the ICC should meet, therefore the POSH Act affords the ICC with sufficient flexibility to meet at their convenience, including virtually, to deliberate on any aspect of the organization related to the area of sexual harassment, including complaint(s). As per the POSH Law, the mandate is to meet whenever a complaint is lodged with the ICC and follow the timelines.
What is the procedure for resolving POSH claims?
The Act has laid down specific timelines for all claims arising under the POSH Law, ranging from the receipt of the claim, due inquiry, testimony, and evidence collection. The ICC has also been empowered to refer claims to the local police authorities based on the seriousness of the case.
Following below is the procedure;
1. Filing and verifying of the complaint
2. Conduct inquiry within 90 days of the receipt of the complaint
3. ICC must submit the report within 10 days of completion of the inquiry to the employer
4. The employer must implement the recommendations shared as part of the report prepared by the ICC within 60 days of receipt of such recommendations
5. Appeals under the POSH Act must take place within 90 days of the recommendations being formulated on specific issues.
What are the steps to be taken if harassed, AS an Employee?
# Remain professional
# Be direct with the harasser. Let the person know that you do not like the behavior and that the conduct is unwanted and unwelcome and you want it to stop immediately
# Go to a supervisor and explain the circumstances. Be sure to take with you dates, times, and specific occurrences if you have them. Also, report the incident to Human Resources. If the appropriate supervisor is unavailable, or is the offender, report the incident directly to Human Resources
# When reporting the harassment, be prepared to share all the facts about the incident(s). Write down the important details of the incidents(s). Collect your thoughts before you begin; remember to provide who, what, when, where, how, and any witnesses
# Think about how the situation could be resolved.