Right Activists say,“Punishment may deter perpetrators from striking out against women”. And therefore, a woman should always stand up against Sexual Harassment at workplaces. If a victim of sexual harassment at work, not knowing her rights, quietly observes sexual harassment and refuses to take action against it, it will only encourage the same behaviour by the perpetrator, not only to herself, but to every woman who comes after her. Every woman standing up for herself, means every woman standing up for not only themselves, but also for other women. If one takes the right measures in a timely manner, many other victims of harassment would also get the courage to then take the right stand while also discouraging harassment by the violators.
How can a woman who has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment take action against their perpetrator under the POSH Act?
The POSH Act was implemented to prevent and protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace and thereby ensure a safe working environment for all women. As a mandatary compliance, the POSH Act requires every company that has more than ten employees to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in the prescribed manner to receive and address the complaints of any sort of sexual harassment from women in a time-bound, confidential and effective manner. ICC is a mandatory requirement under the POSH Act and not abiding by the same can incur heavy penalties for the organization including cancellation of license to conduct business operations.
What is the procedure for addressing complaints under the POSH ACT?
First and foremost, only the aggrieved lady can file a complaint, the POSH Act is not gender-neutral, hence a woman must stand up to her violators or if a woman has witnessed another colleague (woman) being sexually harassed or assaulted at her workplace, she too must do her best to get it reported. When a complaint such as this is reported, it is an employer’s responsibility that a satisfactory inquiry and resolution is reached, failing which the employer can be deemed as facilitator of sexual harassment and hence be liable to compensate to the complainant.
Requirements for filing the Complaint: Six copies of the complaint are to be filed, supporting documents and evidence, details of witnesses, details of the incident, details of respondent. The written complaint should contain a description of each incident(s) & must include: relevant date/s, timing/s and location/s, name of Respondent/s, the working relationship between the parties.
The Internal Complaints Committees (ICC) hired by the organization, have the same powers as of Civil Courts and hence are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry if requested by the complainant. The ICC has the power to initiate action against the culprit, warn him, prescribe community service, withhold promotion, terminate or deduct from the salary of the respondent as compensation to be paid to aggrieved women. It is also the responsibility of the ICC to assist her to make an official complaint at the Police Station in case the aggrieved lady wants to file the complaint while the ICC investigation is on. In case the harasser is a third party, the ICC does not have the necessary jurisdiction to interfere in the same in which case the employer must ensure a case is filed with the police.
The ICC is required to address the complaint within 90 days along with satisfactory resolution and a report on how the case was handled within the following 10 days. The recommendations of the ICC must be implemented within the next 60 days. In case the complaint is not resolved or the recommendation of the ICC is not satisfactory, the complainant or the respondent can take it up at the Tribunal or Court of that State.