The POSH Act is a legislation enacted by the Government of India in 2013 to address the issue of sexual harassment faced by women at workplace. The Act aims to create a safe and conducive work environment for women and provide protection against sexual harassment. The POSH Act defines sexual harassment to include unwelcome acts such as physical contact and sexual advances, a demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, showing pornography, and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, commonly known as the POSH Act, is a pivotal legal framework in India to combat the pervasive issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. This act plays a crucial role in empowering women employees, providing them with a platform to report incidents of sexual harassment and seek appropriate redressal.
Background: The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment in the Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan 1997 case gave ‘Vishakha guidelines’. These guidelines formed the basis for the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Table of Contents
Key features of The POSH Act
- Definition of Sexual Harassment:
The Act defines what constitutes sexual harassment and provides a comprehensive understanding of the various forms of harassment.
The Act applies to all workplaces, whether in the public or private sector, including government organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), corporations, and other places where women are employed.
- Mandatory Internal Complaints Committee (ICC):
Employers must set up an Internal Complaints Committee to address complaints of sexual harassment. ICC is responsible for receiving and investigating complaints and recommending actions against the accused.
- Timeframe for Resolution:
The Act stipulates that complaints must be resolved within 90 days from the date of filing. An extension of time can be granted in certain circumstances.
- Protection of Complainants and Witnesses:
The Act ensures protection for the complainant and witnesses against any retaliation or adverse action for filing a complaint or participating in the investigation.
- Penalties for Non-Compliance:
Failure to comply with the act’s provisions could result in penalties, including fines.
List of District Officers (DO) Address
The addresses of DO and WCD offices of few cities – Mumbai, Bangalore, Noida and Gurgaon – are mentioned below:
|District/City||District Officer (DO) Address||Women and Child Development Office|
|Mumbai City||Old Custom House, Shahid Bhagat Sing Marg, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001||District Women and Child Development Officer, Mumbai District. Bldg. 117, Opp BDD Chawl, 1st Floor, Dr. Ambedkar Hostel Compound, Dr. G. M. Bhosale Marg, Worli, Mumbai – firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Mumbai Suburban||Office of Collector 10th Floor, New Administrative Building, Near Chetna College, Government Colony, Bandra East, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400051||Office of Women and Child Development, Maharashtra State Social Welfare Board, New Administrative Building, Stage 2, 1st Floor, Ramakrishna Chemburkkar Marg, Near Monorail Station, Chembur email@example.com |
|Bengaluru (Bangalore) Rural||Deputy Commissioner office Bangalore Rural District District Office Complex, Beerasandra village, Devanahalli Taluk||Office of the Deputy Director, Women & Child Development Department, Old Check Post, Near Traffic Police Station, Magadi Road, Bangalorefirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Bengaluru (Bangalore) Urban||Office of the District Officer (Deputy Commissioner) LCC, Fourth Floor, DC Office Building, Revenue Complex, KG Road, Bangalore- 560009||Women and Child Development Office, Correctional Institutions Complex, Dr M Marigowda Road, Hosur Road, Bangalore 560029 near Kidwai Hospitalemail@example.com|
cc to: firstname.lastname@example.org
cc to: email@example.com
|Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida)||Office of the District Magistrate and District Collector, Collectorate Office, Near LG Office, Surajpur, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh- 201306||Directorate of Women Welfare, Government of Uttar Pradesh, 8th Floor, Jawahar Bhawan, Ashok Marg, Lucknow – 1 (Uttar Pradesh) firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Gurugram (Gurgaon)||Office of the Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate, District Officer, Gurugram District, First Floor, Mini Secretariat, Gurugram – 122001||Women & Child Development Department, Bays No. 15-20, Sector 4, Panchkula, Haryana email@example.com|
A Step-by-Step Guide for the POSH Committee to Handle Sexual Harassment Complaints:
Creating a step-by-step guide for a POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) committee to handle sexual harassment complaints is crucial in promoting a safe and respectful workplace environment. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this process:
Step 1: Establishing the Committee
1.1. Constitute the POSH Committee: Form a POSH committee as per the legal requirements, typically comprising employees from various levels and backgrounds.
1.2. Designate a Presiding Officer: Appoint a Chairperson who will lead the committee and oversee the handling of complaints.
1.3. Select Committee Members: Choose other committee members who are empathetic, unbiased, and knowledgeable about company policies.
Step 2: Training and Awareness
2.1. Educate Committee Members: Provide committee members with training on sexual harassment laws, company policies, and handling complaints.
2.2. Spread Awareness: Promote awareness among all employees about the committee’s existence, role, and the process for reporting complaints.
Step 3: Reporting Mechanisms
3.1. Set Up Reporting Channels: Create multiple avenues for employees to report harassment, such as a dedicated email, hotline, or physical drop box.
3.2. Ensure Confidentiality: Assure complainants that their identities will remain confidential during the process.
Step 4: Receiving and Recording Complaints
4.1. Receive Complaints Promptly: Ensure that complaints are received and acknowledged without delay.
4.2. Record Complaints: Maintain detailed records of each complaint, including date, time, place, and nature of the incident, as well as the identity of the complainant and respondent.
Step 5: Preliminary Investigation
5.1. Appoint an Investigator: Assign an impartial investigator to assess the complaint.
5.2. Gather Evidence: Collect relevant evidence, such as witness statements, documents, and any supporting information.
5.3. Conduct Interviews: Interview the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses separately.
Step 6: Inquiry Process
6.1. Prepare a Report: The investigator must compile findings and prepare a report detailing the investigation’s findings.
6.2. Present the Report to the Committee: The investigator presents the report to the POSH committee for review.
Step 7: Committee’s Decision and Action
7.1. Decision Making: The committee reviews the investigator’s report, considers all evidence, and makes a decision regarding the complaint.
7.2. Recommend Actions: Depending on the findings, recommend appropriate actions, such as counseling, warning, suspension, or termination, against the respondent.
7.3. Notify the Parties: Inform both the complainant and respondent about the committee’s decision and any actions taken.
Step 8: Follow-Up and Monitoring
8.1. Implement the Decision: Ensure that the recommended actions are carried out.
8.2. Follow-up with the Complainant: Keep in touch with the complainant to monitor their well-being and ensure there is no retaliation.
8.3. Periodic Review: Continuously review the effectiveness of the committee’s actions and make any necessary adjustments.
Step 9: Documentation and Compliance
9.1. Maintain Records: Keep records of all complaints, investigations, and actions taken.
9.2. Legal Compliance: Ensure that the committee’s actions are in compliance with relevant sexual harassment laws and regulations.
Step 10: Training and Prevention
10.1. Periodic Training: Conduct regular workshops and training sessions to create awareness and prevent sexual harassment.
10.2. Review and Update Policies: Periodically review and update your company’s sexual harassment policies to address new challenges and legal requirements.
Remember, handling sexual harassment complaints requires a delicate and respectful approach. Ensure that your committee maintains a victim-centered and impartial stance throughout the process. Legal counsel may be necessary to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.
Strategies for Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive issue that affects people from all walks of life. It can have devastating consequences for victims, ranging from emotional and psychological distress to career stagnation or even job loss. However, prevention is the key to fostering a safe and inclusive work environment. We explore various tips for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, and it is clear that proactive measures are essential to create a culture of respect, equality, and trust.
- Education and Training: One of the most crucial steps in preventing sexual harassment is to educate employees and employers about what constitutes harassment, its impact, and the procedures for reporting it. Regular training sessions can help raise awareness, ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities, and reduce ignorance as a potential cause of harassment.
- Clear Anti-Harassment Policies: Every workplace should have clear and comprehensive anti-harassment policies in place. These policies should define unacceptable behavior, establish reporting procedures, and outline the consequences for harassers. By setting these guidelines, organizations send a strong message that harassment will not be tolerated.
- Promote a Culture of Respect: Promoting a culture of respect and equality is fundamental. Employers should encourage open communication, active listening, and empathy among their staff. Team-building activities that emphasize mutual respect can help create a positive and inclusive work environment.
- Encourage Reporting: Employees need to feel safe and supported when reporting incidents of harassment. Employers should provide multiple reporting channels and ensure confidentiality for those who come forward. Whistleblower protection policies can further enhance reporting mechanisms.
- Bystander Intervention: Encourage bystander intervention by training employees to recognize and address potential harassment situations. Empowering coworkers to intervene when they witness inappropriate behavior can be a powerful tool in prevention.
- Support for Victims: Offering support to victims of sexual harassment is essential. Employers should provide resources like counseling services and legal assistance. Knowing that they have this support can help victims come forward without fear of retaliation.
- Transparency and Accountability: It’s essential to hold both employees and management accountable for their actions. Creating a transparent system for investigating and addressing harassment allegations will demonstrate that no one is above the law.
Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is a collective responsibility. It requires a combination of education, clear policies, a culture of respect, reporting mechanisms, bystander intervention, support for victims, and accountability. By implementing these tips, organizations can create a safe and inclusive environment where every employee feels respected and valued, free from the scourge of harassment. Preventing sexual harassment is not only a legal obligation but a moral imperative that benefits both individuals and the workplace as a whole.