The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 provides has been drafted to make professional, academic and public spheres safer for women to function in.
The Act intends to penalize the following sexual notions: any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made a condition for employment.
Section 3 of the Act makes it incumbent on each organization to constitute an Inquiry Committee in order to inquire into complaints under this Act. The Committee consists of three members of whom at least one member shall be a woman. One member shall be from senior management and one shall be a senior representative of the employees or a senior employee where there is no CBA. One or more members can be co-opted from outside the organization if the organization is unable to designate three members from within as described above.
The procedure of holding an inquiry has been prescribed under section 4 of the Act and is as follows:
Inquiry Committee, within three days of receipt of a written complaint, shall–
(a) communicate to the accused the charges and statement of allegations leveled against him, the formal written receipt of which will be given;
(b) require the accused within seven days from the day the charge is communicated to him to submit a written defense and on his failure to do so without reasonable cause, the Committee shall proceed ex-parte; and
(c) Inquire into the charge and may examine such oral or documentary evidence in support of the charge or in defense of the accused as the Committee may consider necessary and each party shall be entitled to cross-examine the witnesses against him.
The following provisions inter alia shall be followed by the Committee in relation to inquiry:
(a) The statements and other evidence acquired in the inquiry process shall be considered as confidential;
(b) An officer in an organization, if considered necessary, may be nominated to provide advice and assistance to each party;
(c) Both parties, the complainant and the accused, shall have the right to be represented or accompanied by a Collective Bargaining Agent representative, a friend or a colleague;
(d) Adverse action shall not be taken against the complainant or the witnesses;
(e) The inquiry Committee shall ensure that the employer or accused shall in no case create any hostile environment for the complainant so as to pressurize her from freely pursuing her complaint; and
(f) The Inquiry Committee shall give its findings in writing by recording reasons thereof.
The Inquiry Committee shall submit its findings and recommendations to the Competent Authority within thirty days of the initiation of inquiry. If the Inquiry Committee finds the accused to be guilty it shall recommend to the Competent Authority.
The Government has also appointed Ombudsman at federal and provincial levels. The Ombudsman exercises the same powers and has the same functions as that of the inquiry committee. An employee has an option to either approach the inquiry committee of her office or the Ombudsman.
The possible punishment for sexual harassment is as follows:
Minor penalty include:
censure; (b) withholding, for a specific period, promotion or increment; (c) stoppage, for a specific period, at an efficiency bar in the time-scale, otherwise than for unfitness to cross such bar; and (d) recovery of the compensation payable to the complainant from pay or any other source of the accused.
Major penalties: (a) reduction to a lower post or time-scale, or to a lower stage in a time-scale; (b) compulsory retirement; (c) removal from service; (d) dismissal from service; and (e) Fine. A part of the fine can be used as compensation for the complainant. In case of the owner, the fine shall be payable to the complainant
An accused may file an appeal against his punishment with the Ombudsman.