Whether it be unwelcome physical contact or sexual connotations or other sexual advances, harassment at workplaces is, unfortunately, a pertinent reality. As more and more women are publicly stating their experiences of sexual harassment by their colleagues or seniors, it is essential to know what measures they, or someone they know has experienced sexual harassment at their workplace, can take.
Now, what accounts as sexual harassment at the workplace and what should your employers do in such a situation? Read ahead to find out.
The Vishakha guidelines make it mandatory for every organisation to have an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). You can read in detail about the guidelines here.
According to the guidelines, “the Complaints Committee (ICC) should be headed by a woman, and not less than half of its member should be women. Further, to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such Complaints Committee should involve a third party, either NGO or other bodies who are familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.”
Sexual harassment, according to the guidelines, includes “unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as:
a) Physical contact and advances;
b) A demand or request for sexual favours;
c) Sexually coloured remarks;
d) Showing pornography;
e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
In case you have experienced such harassment at your workplace, you need to file a written complaint with the ICC. The topic can be a little complicated but Amba, a Twitter user who has been involved in an ICC for over ten years, has shed light on this.
Here’s what she says:
1. The ICC can only take steps on the complaints of sexual harassment that they have received “at the workplace.”
“Workplace” here includes the places that employees are on account of work. This includes, but is not limited to—the office, its campus, canteen, offsite social events, office cab etc. In cases of travelling outside of the city for work, “workplace” then also includes the hotel they are staying at, the mode of transport etc.
2. “Employees” refer to full time and part time employees, interns, volunteers, consultants, contractors, the staff of vendors among others.
3. The complaint needs to be in writing to leave a paper trail. “All proceedings of the ICC shall be recorded in writing. The record of the proceedings and the statement of witnesses shall be endorsed by the persons concerned as well as the committee members present in token of authenticity thereof,” say the ICC guidelines.
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4. Clearing the air on grey areas like the security of employees when they are at home or when they are sexually harassed when they are not at work, Amba says this: “If say an employee is at home when she is called/texted by her colleague asking for sexual favours, this still accounts as a workplace.”
If you are harassed at a restaurant by an employee of the restaurant when you are not there on official business, the complaint needs to be filed with the ICC of the restaurant.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)