SafetySeptember 11, 2023|5 min read
In today’s world, creating a safe and respectful workplace environment is of utmost importance. One essential piece of legislation that aims to address this issue is the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013, commonly known as the PoSH Act. This act is a significant step towards preventing and addressing sexual harassment in workplaces in India. In this blog, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide to the terms and concepts in the context of the PoSH Act, ensuring you have a clear understanding of its provisions.
According to the law, any unwelcome behavior is classified as sexual harassment. This encompasses various actions, such as:
Sexual harassment encompasses unwelcome sexual behavior, advances, comments, requests for sexual favors, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an environment at the workplace that is hostile, intimidating, or offensive.
Under the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013, commonly known as the PoSH Act, an aggrieved woman is defined as a woman of any age, regardless of her employment status within the organization. This definition includes individuals who believe they have experienced any form of sexual harassment within the workplace environment.
In effect, this means that even visitors, customers, or clients who encounter sexual harassment at a workplace are protected by the PoSH Act. This provision aims to ensure protection for all individuals, irrespective of their relationship with the organization.
A workplace is defined as any department, organization, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, hospital, unit, dwelling, or house where a person is employed or has applied for employment.
An Internal Complaints Committee is a group established within a workplace to address and manage complaints of sexual harassment. Its primary objective is to ensure a safe and confidential process for reporting and resolving such issues.
Internal Committee members are responsible for investigating and handling complaints related to sexual harassment, ensuring a safe environment for employees. These members are employees of the organization.
External committee members are individuals not directly affiliated with the organization but appointed to ensure impartiality and fairness in addressing complaints of sexual harassment. They play a crucial role in maintaining transparency and objectivity during the investigation and resolution process, often coming from legal, social, or women’s rights backgrounds.
The Presiding Officer is a woman who leads the Internal Committee and is responsible for guiding the committee’s efforts in addressing and resolving instances of sexual harassment within the workplace.
The Local Committee operates at the district level and is responsible for handling complaints related to sexual harassment. This includes cases where there is no Internal Committee established or when the complaint is against the employer.
Local Complaints Committee members are responsible for investigating complaints related to sexual harassment and ensuring a safe environment for employees. These members typically have experience in social work and NGOs.
The Chairperson leads and oversees the activities and proceedings of the Local Complaints Committee. They are responsible for guiding the committee’s efforts in addressing complaints of sexual harassment, conducting investigations, and ensuring effective compliance with the mandates of the PoSH Act. The Chairperson is appointed by the respective state government or union territory administration.
An employee refers to any person, regardless of their employment status, who is hired, engaged, or employed, including temporary, probationary, or full-time employees, contractual workers, and interns.
An employer is an individual or organization that hires individuals to work in exchange for payment, typically in the form of salary or wages.
A District Officer is an official designated by the appropriate government under section 5 of the PoSH Act. The District Officer is responsible for receiving complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the Internal Complaints Committee has not been constituted, either due to having fewer than ten workers or if the complaint is against the employer.
A complainant is an individual who formally lodges a complaint, alleging that they have experienced an incident of sexual harassment in the workplace. The complainant brings forward the allegation against the respondent.
A respondent is the individual who is accused of engaging in an act of sexual harassment. They are the subject of the complaint brought forward by the person alleging harassment.
The PoSH Act contains provisions for handling cases where complaints are found to be untrue or malicious. If the Internal Committee (IC) or Local Committee (LC) determines that a complaint is intentionally false or malicious, and if false information is provided during the investigation, the organization can take disciplinary action against the person who made the complaint. This is done to ensure fairness and honesty throughout the process.
Misconduct refers to any inappropriate behavior or actions that violate the guidelines and standards set by the PoSH Act.
Redressal is the process of addressing and resolving a complaint of sexual harassment. It may involve corrective measures, compensation, or other appropriate actions to rectify the situation.
A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a legal agreement that may prevent parties from disclosing specific information. It is often used in settlements related to sexual harassment cases to maintain confidentiality.
SHE-BOX stands for the Sexual Harassment Electronic-Box, an online platform launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in India. It provides a single-window access for women, whether they are working in the public or private sector, to register complaints related to sexual harassment at the workplace. The SHE-BOX platform enables the speedy redressal of complaints by routing them to the respective employers and the Internal Committees (ICs) or Local Committees (LCs) for appropriate action.
The PoSH Act is a crucial piece of legislation designed to create safe and respectful workplace environments by preventing and addressing sexual harassment. Understanding the key terms and concepts within this act is essential for both employers and employees to ensure compliance and promote a culture of respect and equality in the workplace. By familiarizing yourself with these provisions, you can contribute to a more inclusive and harassment-free work environment.