Displaying Notices at Offices under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Law
Employers have a duty under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013, to display notices at conspicuous places, which deal with the penal consequences of violating the law, as well as the order for the constitution of an ICC in the organisation. This is a rule that has a huge direct impact on the implementation of the provisions of the Act. The notices which are displayed are the most direct way in which employers are able to communicate certain important aspects such as the creation of the ICC, to the employees and other potential victims of sexual harassment.
The Internal Complaints Committee is a vital body under the law. It is the first redressal body under the Act, and is constituted in all organisations which have more than 10 employees. It is important for potential victims to be aware of the existence of an ICC in their organisation. Currently, as a result of most victims being unaware of the proper redressal procedure, a majority of cases are first taken to the police or aired on social media. The same was seen when employees of TVF using social media to air their complaints regarding the environment at the organisation. While this helped the issue gain nationwide attention, it did little to further the disposal of the complaint.
Such an incident is due to the victim believing that it is her only outlet. In order for such complaints to be addressed internally and avoiding the hassle which is unavoidable in the alternatives, potential victims ought to be informed about the existence of the ICC, as well as its purpose and the appropriate procedure to be followed regarding the same.
By keeping complaints of sexual harassment within the organisation, organisations will be able to avoid unnecessary publicity. The usage of social media, for example, by aggrieved victims who are under the belief that they have nowhere to go, would result in the reputation of the organisation being severely affected. This would further result in a multitude of problems that the Human Resource department of the organisation would have to deal with.
The potential victims of sexual harassment are not only the employees of the organisation, but also the those who are external visitors. A woman visiting another organisation on official work, facing sexual harassment from one of the employees in that organisation is also a potential victim. Similarly, facing such an issue while visiting one’s vendors or associates are a possibility. Given that an incident of sexual harassment could occur with anyone, organisations are to display notices with the relevant information in a location that is easily visible. When these individuals are unaware of the appropriate procedure to be followed in the redressal of such cases, they approach the police or the courts and are turned away. In order to ensure that the case is dealt with in an effective or appropriate manner, in such circumstances, it is important for the organisation to not only constitute the Internal Complaints Committee but also to ensure that potential victims are aware of its existence and functions.
This gives organisations the chance to deal with complaints of sexual harassment internally. Given that in cases where victims feel like they have nowhere to go, they ordinarily turn to social media, which would not only have a negative impact on the organisation but not help in dealing with the case either. Thus, it is in the best interests of the organisation for them to display notices regarding the formation of the Internal Complaints Committee.
The notices are also meant to inform employees and other concerned parties about the provisions of the Act, as well as the penal consequences that would follow, should the law be broken. This is an effective tool in ensuring that the employees of the organisation are able to understand how grave cases of sexual harassment are. By doing so, the harmful mindset that “nothing comes of complaints of sexual harassment” will be removed.
This would also have an effect on the manner in which the Act is perceived. It is important for the female employees in the organisation to know that there exists a law to protect them in cases of sexual harassment and that they do have legal recourse. It is also important that they do not mistake this to mean that the law is a tool in their hands and that they can use and abuse it as they see fit. Similarly, it is vital that the male employees of the organisation not view the Act as being a legislation that is targeting them, but rather as one that ensures that the work environment in the organisation is better and safer for everyone.
The notices that are to be displayed by the employer are thus an important function that he/she has to perform, albeit not necessarily due to it being a statutory duty. The advantages of displaying the notices have benefits for both the employer and the employee. The employee would be aware of the existence of the Act, as well as the appropriate procedure that is to be followed while redressing complaints. The employer benefits as the complaints are dealt with in an effective manner and the perception of the Act in the organisation is what it ought to be. Thus, employers following the appropriate steps and displaying the notices could lead to a win-win situation if done in the right manner.
Author: This post has been submitted by Rohit Iyengar, as part of his assignment with Ungender Insights. Rohit Iyengar is currently a student of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.