work place sexual harassment

Government Awareness

Good To Know : How To Deal With Sexual Harassment At Work Place ?

From our friends at

December 23rd, 2016


In 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act was passed. Today, all companies that have more than ten people need to comply with it. How does the law work?

  • This Act makes it illegal to harass women in the workplace sexually.
  • It talks about the different ways in which someone can be sexually harassed and how they can complain about this kind of behaviour.
  • It is for any woman who is harassed in any workplace.
  • It is not necessary for the woman to be working at the workplace where she is harassed.
  • A workplace can be any office, whether government or private.

What is sexual harassment ?

Sexual harassment can be:

sexual harassment


How Do You Complain About Sexual Harassment?

1Who can make a complaint?

A woman who has faced sexual harassment at the workplace can make a complaint.

2To whom should the complaint be made?

  • If the organization has an Internal Complaints Committee, the victim should make a complaint to such committee. All organizations with more than 10 people are supposed to set up these Committees.
  • If the organization has not set up an Internal Complaints Committee, the victim should make a complaint to the Local Complaints Committee. Unfortunately, many State Governments have not fully set up these Committees, and information on who to contact has not been made public in most cases.

3By when should the complaint made?

The victim should make the complaint within three months of the incident. If there has been more than one incident, the complaint should be made within three months of the date of the last incident.

4Can this time be extended?

Yes, the Internal or Local Complaints Committees can extend this if they find that the victim could not have made the complaint earlier. This time limit cannot extend beyond another three months.

5How should the complaint be made?

The complaint should be made in writing. In case the complaint cannot be made in writing, the members of the Committee must help the victim in writing down the complaint.

For example, if the woman is illiterate and does not have access to a trustworthy scribe who will write the complaint, she can approach the Committee and the Committee should ensure that the complaint is properly recorded.


6Can someone else file the complaint on behalf of the victim?

  • If the victim is physically unable to make the complaint (for example, if she is unconscious), her relative or friend, her co- worker, any person who knows of the incident and who has taken the consent of the victim, or any officer of the National or State Commissions for Women can make the complaint.
  • If the victim is not in a mental state to file a complaint, her relative or friend, her special educator, her psychiatrist/psychologist, her guardian, or any person who is taking care of her can make the complaint. Also, anyone who knows of the incident can make the complaint jointly with any of the people mentioned earlier.
  • If the victim is dead, any person who knows of the incident can make the complaint with the consent of her legal heir.

What Happens Once A Complaint Is Filed ?

  • If the woman wants, the matter can be settled through a process known as ‘conciliation’. This is where the two parties sit down and try to reach an agreement. Payment of money cannot be a part of the agreement reached in this way.
  • If the woman does not want conciliation, an inquiry procedure will start. The Internal Committee has to finish in 90 days. It can take place according to company procedure – if there is no company procedure, it will take place according to the general law. The Committee can question the woman, the accused person and witnesses, and also ask for documents related to the case. No lawyers are allowed in front of the Committee.

At the end of the inquiry, if the Committee finds that sexual harassment has taken place, they will recommend action to the employer. Action can be taken as per the company’s rules. If there are no rules, the action can include:

  • Written apology
  • Warning
  • Stopping of promotion or increment
  • Ordering counselling or community service
  • Firing the person

What About False Complaints?

If the Internal Committee finds that a woman has made a false complaint on purpose, action can be taken. This action can include demanding

  • a written apology, or warning.
  • it can also include stopping a promotion or increment, or
  • the woman being fired.

However, just because there is not enough proof doesn’t automatically mean the complaint is false. There must be some solid proof (like an email to a friend where the woman admitted she was lying) that the complaint is false.



Employer And Their Duties

1As per this act, an employer is

  • Government offices – An employer is usually the head of the department. Sometimes, the government may decide that another person will be considered as the ‘employer’.
  • Private offices – An employer is any person who manages and oversees the office. This includes the board or committee making and implementing policies.
  • Any office –  A person who is an employer per their contract.
  • Home –  The person or the house which hires a domestic worker. The nature of the work and the number of workers do not matter.

2Duties of employer

  • The employer needs to set up an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ to handle cases of sexual harassment at your workplace.
  • The presiding officer of the committee should be a woman who is a senior employee of the workplace. Information about this committee must be displayed in a place where the employees can see it easily
  • The employers are supposed to primarily make sure that the workplace is safe for all women. Women employees should not feel unsafe in the presence of others who are not working but are only visiting the workplace.
  • Further, the employer should put up the sexual harassment policy and the order that sets up the Internal Complaints Committee so that all employees can see it.
  • The employer should organize regular workshops to educate the employees about issues of sexual harassment.
  • They should also include sexual harassment as a part of their service rules and frame a comprehensive policy to deal with it in the workplace.

To know more about the Act, read a simple explainer by Nyaaya here

Disclaimer: *This information is subject to periodic government policy/process change. Kindly contact the concerned department to cross check for recent updates, if any.

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