Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Workplace Sexual Harassment: Are Laws Really The Savior? - MONDAQ

by Sakshi Seth 
Originally published: May 15, 2017
Publisher: Mondaq.com

With more and more women joining workforce, ensuring an enabling working environment for women that is safe and secure has become a key concern, not only for their employers but also for the government. This is essential given the rise of sexual harassment at work incidents being reported. The landmark judgment of Vishakha and Ors v. State of Rajasthan1, lead to the enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 ("Act"), mandating every employer to provide a mechanism to redress grievances pertaining to workplace sexual harassment and enforce the right to gender equality of working women. The recent case, where a former employee of Uber wrote in her blog about the experiences of sexual harassment and gender bias during her year-long employment has, once again, brought the inadequacy of sexual harassment mechanism in place to the forefront.

This bulletin analyzes the legal framework on workplace sexual harassment, practical issues in implementation and the recent developments therein.

1. Some key definitions

The objective of the Act is that no woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.2 Section 2 (a) defines an "aggrieved woman" to be of any age, whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment. According to section 2 (n), "sexual harassment" includes direct or implicated unwelcome sexually unwavering behavior such as physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favors, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, or any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. Section 3 expressly stipulates no woman shall be harassed at workplace. The harassment may include direct or indirect promises of preferential treatment or threats of unfavorable treatment in employment or creating an intimidating or hostile work environment or humiliating treatment likely to affect a woman's health or safety.