Workplace Sexual Harassment- What Is It?



“No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.” Section 3(1) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

In 2013, the Government of India notified the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. Consistent with the Vishaka judgment, the Act aspires to ensure women’s right to workplace equality, free from sexual harassment.


FORMS OF WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Generally workplace sexual harassment refers to two common forms of Inappropriate Behaviour:
• Quid Pro Quo (literally ‘this for that’)
- Implied or explicit promise of preferential/detrimental treatment in employment
- Implied or express threat about her present or future employment status
• Hostile Work Environment
- Creating a hostile, intimidating or an offensive work environment
- Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety


Some examples of behaviour that constitute sexual harassment at the workplace:
  1. Making sexually suggestive remarks or innuendos.
  2. Serious or repeated offensive remarks, such as teasing related to a person’s body or appearance.
  3. Offensive comments or jokes.
  4. Inappropriate questions, suggestions or remarks about a person’s sex life.
  5. Displaying sexist or other offensive pictures, posters, mms, sms, whatsapp, or e-mails.
  6. Intimidation, threats, blackmail around sexual favors.
  7. Threats, intimidation or retaliation against an employee who speaks up about unwelcome behaviour with sexual overtones.
  8. Unwelcome social invitations, with sexual overtones commonly understood as flirting.
  9. Unwelcome sexual advances which may or may not be accompanied by promises or threats, explicit or implicit.
  10. Physical contact such as touching or pinching.
  11. Caressing, kissing or fondling someone against her will (could be considered assault).
  12. Invasion of personal space (getting too close for no reason, brushing against or cornering someone).
  13. Persistently asking someone out, despite being turned down.
  14. Stalking an individual.
  15. Abuse of authority or power to threaten a person’s job or undermine her performance against sexual favours.
  16. Falsely accusing and undermining a person behind closed doors for sexual favours.
  17. Controlling a person’s reputation by rumour-mongering about her private life.
Some examples of behaviour that may indicate underlying workplace sexual harassment and merit inquiry:
  1. Criticizing, insulting, blaming, reprimanding or condemning an employee in public.
  2. Exclusion from group activities or assignments without a valid reason.
  3. Statements damaging a person’s reputation or career.
  4. Removing areas of responsibility, unjustifiably.
  5. Inappropriately giving too little or too much work.
  6. Constantly overruling authority without just cause.
  7. Unjustifiably monitoring everything that is done.
  8. Blaming an individual constantly for errors without just cause.
  9. Repeatedly singling out an employee by assigning her with demeaning and belittling jobs that are not part of her regular duties.
  10. Insults or humiliations, repeated attempts to exclude or isolate a person.
  11. Systematically interfering with normal work conditions, sabotaging places or instruments of work.
  12. Humiliating a person in front of colleagues, engaging in smear campaigns.
  13. Arbitrarily taking disciplinary action against an employee.
  14. Controlling the person by withholding resources (time, budget, autonomy, and training) necessary to succeed.
In Brief Harassment Includes:
  1. Verbal, Non-verbal or Physical Conduct such as Loaded Comments, Remarks of Jokes, Letters, Phone calls or through Email or any communication mediums, Gesture Showing of Pornography, Lurid Stares, Physical Contact or Molestation, Stalking, etc.
  2. Forcible Physical Touch or Molestation. Eve Teasing Innuendos and Taunts, Physical Confinement against one’s will and any other act or Omission to Impinge upon one’s privacy.
  3. Pursuing and Stalking Former Girl Friends.
  4. Gossiping and Spreading Information about a woman’s private life.
  5. Ridiculing a woman on the basis of her Colour, Ethnicity, Dress or Physical Appearance.
Anyone found indulging in such activities may face flowing disciplinary actions:
  1. Debarring entry in the hostel / campus.
  2. Debarring from heading posts.
  3. Separation from the college / hostel.
  4. Expulsion from the institution.
  5. Stopping of increment / promotion (in case of employees only).
  6. Any other action as per discretions of the competent authority. In appropriate cases police / civil authorities may also be approached.