When someone at a place of work behaves in a sexual way towards women and it is unwanted, offensive, threatening, or humiliating, it is seen as a form of harassment. Indian law protects women from both men and women who ask for or demand anything sexual at work. Employers must make sure their place of work is safe for women employees and must take claims of sexual harassment seriously.
Even though anyone can be sexually harassed at the workplace, only women are protected by Indian law. Men in India are not protected from sexual harassment at the workplace by another male or female employee. Any woman is protected from sexual harassment at the workplace whether she is:
If you don't know if you count as a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace, talk to a legal expert about your situation.
If someone says you have sexually harassed them, you should take it seriously. If you don't come three times in a row to hearings your employer has set up, you may not get to speak before a decision is made. Only women are protected from being sexually harassed at their place of work, but sexual harassment can be done by anyone, male or female.
If the Internal Complaints Committee decides that the sexual harassment claim against you is not true, you will not be punished. But, if they decide the claim is true, the Committee can give your employer or the District Officer options for how you could be punished.
There are many things that the law says are sexual harassment. It can be:
This government handbook can help you understand what actions are seen as sexual harassment.
If you have been sexually harassed at the workplace, this is how you file a complaint:
If you cannot write the complaint on your own, the Committee can help you. Sometimes, a complaint can be filed by someone else on your behalf. If you do not want to file a formal complaint they can try to work out the situation with the other person. This is called “conciliation.”
*If your workplace does not have an Internal Complaints Committee, you can go to the Local Complaints Committee that is closest to you.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment you can write to the Complaints Committee to ask them to make your place of work safer by:
If you are sexually harassed at work and have filed a complaint, usually an Internal Complaints Committee will look into your case. While they are doing this, your employer cannot force you to keep working or take away any leave you are owed. You can use your leave and even ask the Committee for more.
Your employer cannot ask you to leave work while your case is being looked at. You can also ask the committee to recommend to your employer that:
As a victim, you have a right to keep your complaint and the things that happen after it private. The law guarantees that the following information is private:
All of the above information cannot be published, communicated, or made known to the public, press, or media in any way.
If the victim is unable to file a complaint herself because of a physical issue, a complaint can be filed for her by:
If the victim is unable to make a complaint herself because of a mental issue, a complaint can be filed for her by:
Sometimes the victim might be unable to make a complaint for a reason besides physical or mental issues. If so, a complaint can still be filed on her behalf by anyone with who knows about the sexual harassment that took place if they have the victim’s written permission. This also applies if the victim is dead and their legal heir gives permission.
Both the victim and the accused have the right to appeal the decision of the Internal or Local Complaints Committee. They should appeal within 90 days of the decision of the Committee. For example, cases could be appealed when the Committee decides that:
The appeal should be made to the authority that is mentioned in the service rules of the workplace. If there are no service rules, the victim can appeal to specific industrial tribunal and labour courts. All of the recommendations should be implemented within 6 months by the District Officer who receives them from the Committee.
If the victim does not want to take care of her sexual harassment claim through a formal complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee, she can ask the Committee to help settle the matter through Conciliation. Conciliation is a mutual agreement between the victim and the accused person to settle the problem between themselves, peacefully.
Only the victim has a right to start the process of conciliation. If the victim and the accused reach a settlement through the conciliation process the recorded settlement will be sent to the employer or District Officer so that action can be taken.
The victim and the offender both have the right to a copy of the recorded settlement. It will be provided to them by the Internal or Local Complaints Committee. The Internal Complaints Committee will not start an inquiry if a settlement happens through conciliation. Getting money from the accused cannot be the reason for conciliation.
The amount of money that victims will receive as compensation is based on the following things:
The Committee can decide whether this money should be paid over time in instalments or all at once.
The law does not have a single punishment for all cases of Sexual Harassment at the workplace. Instead, the Committee investigating will recommend that the victim's employer act according to the service rules of their workplace, if it has them. If you have an employee handbook, please refer to that to see how your employer punishes sexual harassment. If the workplace does not have service rules, then the Committee will recommend that the District Officer take action. As punishment, an offender may:
Whether or not the workplace has service rules, the Committee can also recommend that the employer take a certain amount from the offender's salary/wages so that compensation can be paid to the woman who was harassed. If the employer cannot take money from the offender's salary because they are not working or have left work, the Committee can order the offender to pay the victim directly. If the offender does not pay the compensation, then the Committee can ask the District Officer to get the money from the offender.
Wrong complaints made on purpose or fake documents given to the committee are taken very seriously. If a victim or someone acting for them does either of these things, they could be punished based on the service rules of the workplace. If there are no service rules, the action taken against them can be decided by the Committee. As punishment they may:
Just because a victim is unable to provide enough proof to the Committee, it does not always make her complaint false. The Committee will have to to find out if she made a wrong complaint on purpose.
For example, if Isha makes a complaint against Rohit but there are no witnesses, documents, or anything at all that shows there was sexual harassment, her complaint will not be seen as false. But, if Isha wrote an email to a friend telling them she was lying about the harassment happening, her complaint could be seen as malicious or false.
Under the law, an employer has to take certain steps to create a safe work environment for women.
Women in the workplace should feel safe from sexual harassment from co-workers as well as others who might just be visiting the workplace. It’s important for employers to display the sexual harassment policy of the company where it can be seen. They also must display the order that sets up the Internal Complaints Committee so employees, as well as visitors to the workplace, can see it.
The District Officer will also appoint a Nodal Officer who can receive complaints at a local level.
Higher Education Institutions like colleges also must work to prevent sexual harassment. They have to:
Workplaces with more than 10 employees are required to set up a committee that specifically handles cases of Sexual Harassment. This is known as the Internal Complaints Committee. It must have:
If the presiding officer acts in violation of their powers, they will be removed and a new nomination will take place.
The Internal Complaints Committee has to follow the regulations for taking complaints and making inquiries in a reasonable amount of time. The company or institution has to give the Internal Complaints Committee the things they need to make inquiries.
If you are responsible for the management, supervision, and control of the workplace then you will be understood as an employer under the law. This means you must work to prevent sexual harassment. Offices and employers can include:
A member of the Internal Complaints Committee has to be removed from office if they:
After a member is fired from the committee, the employer will have to find a new member to replace them.
Yes. The Complaints Committee has the right to end the inquiry. Also, if either the victim or the accused is absent for three hearings in a row, the committee can make a decision and give an order. The Committee can only do this if it has given a 15-day notice to the to both the victim and the accused in writing.
No. The current law only protects women who are sexually harassed in workplaces.
No. You do not have to be employed at the workplace where sexual harassment happened to be able to file a complaint. If you visited a workplace where you are not an employee and were sexually harassed by someone at that workplace you can file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee of that workplace.
Yes. the Act gives you a choice. You can deal with the offender within the office where the harassment took place, or in a court, or in both. If you wish, you can file a criminal complaint as well as a complaint to your Internal/Local Complaints Committee.
Yes. A woman teacher/professor can file a case of sexual harassment against a student.
Yes. Women customers/patrons of a store can file a case of sexual harassment against a store owner/manager.
If flirting is unwelcome and makes you uncomfortable then it can be seen as sexual harassment.
Yes. If a woman was in a relationship with a man but isn’t anymore, she can file a complaint against him if he has harassed her sexually at her workplace.
Sexual harassment is a form of gender-based discrimination. Not all gender-based discrimination at a workplace is sexual harassment. To understand if your case of gender-based discrimination is sexual harassment please look at the explanations above. For more information please contact a lawyer.
Yes. Being asked in a manner that makes you uncomfortable about your sexual orientation at a workplace can be sexual harassment.