India’s Workplace Harassment Laws
In India, regulations regarding sexual harassment in the workplace have evolved over the past several decades. With the development of the Vishaka Judgment, and later the passing of the PoSH Act legislation, workplace harassment training became mandatory for Indian companies with more than 10 employees. Let’s explore the regulations detailed in India’s harassment laws.
The History of Sexual Harassment Laws in India
In 1997, the Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan case prompted the Supreme Court of India to issue the Vishaka Guidelines for sexual harassment in the workplace. The case was brought to the Supreme Court after a Rajasthan state employee attempted to prevent a child marriage as part of her work duties in the Women Development Programme. The landlords in her community were infuriated by her actions so they repeatedly assaulted her later while she was working in her fields, and then were allowed to go free by the Rajasthan High Court.
This caused a big upset in the community and several women’s groups joined together as the Vishaka platform to file a case with the Supreme Court. The case was ruled in their favor and as part of the verdict, the court determined that sexual harassment is a violation of human rights and a violation of several rights guaranteed by articles of the Constitution of India.
The primary changes made by this case were the official definitions of a workplace and of sexual harassment (any unwelcome, sexually determined physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct). These definitions were important because the original assault that instigated the judgment did not take place in a traditional workplace, or even by fellow employees, but was made as a result of the woman’s work duties — and she was not protected by her employer. The court ruled that employers are responsible for protecting women from workplace harassment, mandated sexual harassment training for employees, and established a new redressal mechanism: the Complaints Committee, which investigated cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.
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Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act
The Vishaka Guidelines remained in place for nearly two decades before being codified into law by Parliament with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act in 2013, commonly referred to as the Prevention of Sexual Harassment or PoSH Act. The three different elements of the act are:
- Prevention: The PoSH Act requires employers to provide employees with a detailed anti-sexual harassment policy. It should specify corrective actions or penal provisions for misconduct. Employers must also regularly train their employees on the law.
- Prohibition: The law prohibits sexual harassment against women in the workplace.
- Redressal: The Act provides a redressal mechanism for aggrieved women. Employers with ten or more employees must create an Internal Committee to handle complaints; smaller employers can file complaints with the Local Committee in their district.
What Amounts to Sexual Harassment in India?
The original Vishaka Guidelines provided a definition of sexual harassment as any unwelcome, sexually determined physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct. The PoSH Act of 2013 further expanded that definition as “unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely: physical contact and advances; or a demand or request for sexual favours; or making sexually coloured remarks; or showing pornography; or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.” It’s also important to note that the PoSH Act does not extend to other forms of workplace harassment or discrimination, but these may be addressed in an organization’s employee policy.
How Does PoSH Reporting Work in India?
Every workplace must do everything in its power to prevent sexual harassment, including employee prevention training. However, India’s harassment laws also provide a redressal mechanism for aggrieved women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The PoSH Act mandated two types of committees to oversee complaints of sexual harassment against women: the Local Complaints Committee (LCC or LC) which is available in every district, and the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC or IC) which must be formed in every business with >10 employees. The LC and IC have the same legal power as a civil court, and may recommend corrective action, including compensation paid by the harasser to the aggrieved woman.
To submit a complaint, the aggrieved woman (or complainant) must do so in hard or electronic writing within three months of the incident (although the time period can be extended with reason). Many aggrieved women may be afraid to file a complaint, so the Sexual Harassment electronic Box (SHe-Box) is available to file a complaint online, which is forwarded by the government to the appropriate committee.
Is PoSH Training Mandatory in India?
Training on the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (also known as PoSH training, workshops, or awareness programs in the official legislation) is mandatory for all companies with headquarters in India. Regardless of the number of employees, gender of employees, industry, place of operation, and legal status of the establishment, employers must provide sexual harassment training and a sexual harassment policy that details the process for reporting an incident.
Also, according to India’s harassment laws, all employees must receive the sexual harassment training, whether they are regular, temporary, or ad hoc; unpaid volunteers; independent contractors; domestic workers; trainees, apprentices, or interns; hired through the organization directly or through an employment agency or other agent. The PoSH Act also redefined a workplace as any location visited by an employee in the course of their work, including transportation provided by the employer. As made clear by the horrors of the original Vishaka case, employers must protect their female employees at any location visited as part of their work duties.
Benefits of PoSH Training
The purpose of PoSH training is to prevent workplace harassment by making employees aware of the provisions of the PoSH Act, what to do if it happens to an employee, and detailing the different types of sexual harassment. One of the biggest benefits of this training is instilling positive behaviors as well as employees learning how to do their part in creating a workplace that is free from harassment, discrimination, and other unwelcome and inappropriate behaviors. Proper PoSH training for employees also allows organizations to stay in legal compliance with the government, preventing punishments with fines that may extend to fifty thousand rupees.
It is also notable that the language used in the PoSH Act 2013 applies only to sexual harassment experienced by women in the workplace; it doesn't apply to sexual harassment directed at other genders. However, the law does require employers to develop and distribute a sexual harassment policy, and more than 90% of employers' policies are actually gender-neutral. That means that people of all genders have recourse through their employer's human resources department, and EasyLlama online training brings awareness to all types of harassment and discrimination in an India-specific course benefitting people from all walks of life.
The Best Harassment Prevention Course Available
EasyLlama is proud to have a number of global clients and we are excited to provide an award-winning library of courses adhering to the laws and regulations of multiple countries. Our India Workplace Harassment training is available for both supervisors and non-supervisors, and reflects the latest in the Indian Parliament’s legislation on sexual harassment. Developed by global diversity and HR experts, Indian companies can trust EasyLlama to fulfill the compliance requirements of the PoSH Act and to keep employees well-informed about their rights, reporting processes, and how to help prevent potential harassment.
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