Due to the pandemic situation everything changed almost overnight, everything is out of gear and social distancing became the new norm of life. As corona virus cases have surged, so have many companies asked their employees to work from home amid-February. Working from home has made the life of the employees a way simpler, they get flexible working environment, no need to travel through traffics which saved a lots of money as well as time that they use to spend on a daily basis, no more tensions of household chores, and the most importantly getting more time to spend with their loved ones. As everything has its own pros and cons the lockdown and the work from home policy has posed a lot of challenges for many women professionals who have been working from home for such a long period of time, and struggling to manage the work-life balance. Many women had approached the experts and higher authorities for guidance as they were unsure of how to raise complaints of sexual harassment while working from home. The harassment includes emails from supervisors or bosses requesting sexual favors, Co-workers sending texts of vulnerable things, quid pro quo sexual harassment, a form of sexual blackmail or forcing to receive video-chat at odd time. Anti-sexual harassment Laws deals with the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment at the workplace.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 and the rules made thereunder states that, in a workplace having more than 10 employees a committee must be set up internally and is known as the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).A minimum of four members are needed to form the ICC, including a senior woman employee employed at the workplace. The ICC, even though an internal one, it needs to function with complaints of sexual harassment at workplace similar to that of a civil court. As a first step, every organization must adopt an anti-sexual harassment policy. The policy is meant to highlight the organization’s non tolerance attitude to any sexual harassment is concerned. Furthermore, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has launched the Sexual Harassment Electronic Box (She-Box) Online Complaint Management System, where the ministry will be able to communicate and hear the grievance of the aggrieved women directly. Workplace sexual harassment in India, for the very first time was recognized by the Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, in which a dalit woman social worker was brutally gang raped for stopping a child marriage of a infant girl. Wherein the Supreme Court framed certain guidelines and issued directions to the Union of India to enact an appropriate law for combating workplace sexual harassment. The Indian Penal Code 1860, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Industrial employment act also deals with sexual harassment cases.
Some more landmark cases of sexual harassment are Saurabh Kumar Mallick v. Comptroller & Auditor General of India, Saurabh Kumar Mallick v. Comptroller & Auditor General of India,etc.
An employee facing sexual harassment online while working from home can file a complaint under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 and thus is the importance of the instant Act during the Corona virus lockdown in combating sexual harassment at workplace i.e., while working from home for a corporation or industry.
Before filing the complaint the aggrieved women must know the following things;-
Before filing the complaint, take as many screenshots and record as many conversations as possible.
The woman employee must then approach the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) or Local Complaints Committee (LCC).
The respondent will be issued a notice within seven days on the receipt of complaint.
Inquiry into the complaint must be completed within 90 days.
The employer must fully implement the orders of the ICC within 60 days.
The remedies available under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 are either interim relief and/or compensation. It means the aggrieved woman or the respondent can be transferred, respondent could be placed on suspension, The ICC also has the power to recommend a salary cut, stand on any increment or appraisal. In today’s digital world, media and messaging communication is lightning fast, perhaps what we need is dynamic and preventive action.
Written by: Ipsita Das, Student, SNIL, Bhubaneswar
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