What Constitutes Workplace Sexual Harassment ? | #LetsSHINE- Part I

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Sexual Harassment- Definition

Under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Law, otherwise known as the PoSH Act, ‘sexual harassment’ includes any unwelcome act or behavior, which includes any of the following act or acts:

  • physical contact and advances; 
  • a demand or request for sexual favours; 
  • making sexually coloured remarks;
  • showing pornography; or
  • any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

The PoSH Act widens the scope of ‘sexual harassment’ as it contemplates the circumstances which may also amount to sexual harassment if it occurs or is present in relation to or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment. These acts include: 

  • preferential treatment in employment; 
  • a threat of detrimental treatment in the employment; 
  • a threat about present or future employment status; 
  • interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment; or 
  • any humiliating treatment likely to affect the health or safety of the victim. 

It is pertinent to note that if the above mentioned any act or acts are not combined with an act of sexual harassment,  it cannot constitute an offense under the PoSH Act.  

In this video, we amalgamate the views of our participants and experts to understand workplace sexual harassment. 


Sexual Harassment- A Subjective Experience? 

It can be observed that the PoSH Law gives a wide ambit to the term ‘sexual harassment.’ The Courts have endorsed the view that sexual harassment is a subjective experience and is therefore analysed from the complainant’s perspective. It stated that men, who are rarely victims of sexual assault, may view sexual conduct in a vacuum without a full appreciation of the social setting or the underlying threat of violence that a woman may perceive.

Solutions & Suggestion

Given the wide scope of the terminology, it becomes all the more important for companies to have in-depth PoSH training for employees. Since ‘sexual harassment’ has a wide meaning, interactions that some may consider to be ‘harmless,’ may be ‘unwelcome’ to others. Therefore, in compliance with the Act, employers should incorporate a vigilant Internal Committee and partake in other PoSH compliance measures by organising PoSH seminars, workshops, e learning modules, etc. It is crucial that everyone is aware of what sexual harassment means, what are the consequences and punishment for sexual harassment, the means of redressal, etc.

The above insights are a product of our learning and advisory at Lawcubator. Write to us at support@lawcubator.com to for queries, feedback or consultation of PoSH. 

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