Employer’s Responsibility to Curb Sexual Harassment at Workplace: Legal Framework in India

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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Sexual harassment is a serious issue that affects individuals and workplaces across India. It can create a hostile work environment, impact an individual’s mental and emotional health, and result in legal consequences for both individuals and employers. In this blog post, we will discuss the legal framework in India related to an employer’s responsibility to curb sexual harassment at the workplace.

In India, the legal framework related to sexual harassment at the workplace is provided by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This act defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It also provides for the creation of an internal complaints committee (ICC) in every organization with more than 10 employees to address complaints of sexual harassment.

The act imposes several responsibilities on employers to prevent and address incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. These responsibilities include the following:

  1. Establishing an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

As mentioned above, every organization with more than 10 employees is required to establish an ICC to address complaints of sexual harassment. The ICC should consist of at least one external member, who should be a woman and well-versed in issues relating to sexual harassment.

  1. Providing a Safe and Harassment-Free Workplace

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and harassment-free workplace environment to their employees. This includes taking measures to prevent and address incidents of sexual harassment. Employers should have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and should take appropriate action against perpetrators.

  1. Conducting Awareness Programs

Employers should conduct awareness programs for their employees to educate them about sexual harassment and its impact. These programs should also inform employees about the ICC and the process for filing a complaint.

  1. Maintaining Confidentiality

Employers should maintain confidentiality while addressing complaints of sexual harassment. They should take steps to ensure that the identity of the complainant and the accused are not disclosed to anyone, except those who need to know.

Legal Consequences for Employers

Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 face legal consequences. The act provides for penalties, which include fines and imprisonment, for employers who fail to establish an ICC or fail to take appropriate action against perpetrators of sexual harassment.

Legal Remedies for Victims

Victims of sexual harassment also have legal remedies available to them. They can file a complaint with the ICC or with the police under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal offenses such as assault, molestation, and stalking. In addition, victims can also file a civil suit for damages.

Conclusion

Sexual harassment is a serious issue that affects individuals and workplaces across India. Employers have a responsibility to prevent and address incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 provides a legal framework for employers to fulfill their responsibility. By complying with the provisions of the act and taking appropriate action, employers can create a safe and harassment-free workplace environment for their employees.