Feb 15, 2022

F.R.I.E.N.D.S and the Workplace Sexual Harassment Law

Shonottra Kumar

We have always looked at popular movies and sitcoms to learn about love, life and relationships. But have you ever looked at it from the lens of learning the law?

Have you ever wondered how some of your favorite characters would deal with workplace harassment? If some of the on-screen instances were to happen in real life, how would the law deal with it? What remedies would these characters have? Let’s take a look.

We examined some of the scenes from the popular 90s TV series, FRIENDS, for examples of instances of sexual harassment, as understood under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2013 (POSH Act) and whether the characters could file a complaint, if they were governed by Indian law.


Phoebe Buffay’s Complaint

Remember when Paolo visited the massage parlour where Phoebe worked? He tried to get physical with her and even exposed himself, which made Phoebe uncomfortable.

Could Phoebe have filed a sexual harassment complaint even though Paolo wasn’t an employee at the parlour?

Yes, she could have filed a complaint. The POSH Act protects a woman not only from her colleagues but also covers those visiting her workplace.

In this case, since Phoebe was employed at the massage parlour and during the course of her employment found Paolo’s actions to be unwelcome sexual advances, she could have filed a complaint with her Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), or in the absence of an ICC, with the Local Complaints Committee set up at the district level.

In the event her workplace does not have an ICC, she has the option to approach a Local Complaints Committee, set up under the POSH Act in every district.

To know more about the rules governing ICC’s, read this explainer. In the event a workplace does not have an ICC, read more about the Local Complaints Committee here.


Monica’s Job Interview

Monica once went for a job interview where the interviewer made inappropriate comments and sexualised their interaction during the interview. This made Monica very uncomfortable, and she ran out of the interview.

Could Monica have filed a complaint against her interviewer even though she did not work there?



Yes, Monica could have filed a complaint under the POSH Act. If you are visiting another workplace, one where you are not employed at, and are subjected to sexual harassment there by one of their employees, you can file a complaint with the ICC of that organization.

The ICC of that organization is legally bound under the POSH Act to receive your complaint and act on it accordingly. If that organization does not have an ICC, you can file a complaint with the Local Complaints Committee as well.

The POSH Act provides a broad definition for who can file a complaint under the Act, allowing many women to seek redressal. To know more on how to file a complaint under the POSH Act click here.


Tag’s Complaint

In Tag’s interview for the position of Rachel’s assistant, Rachel took a picture of him because she found him to be very attractive. While Tag seemed to have taken by surprise, Rachel told him that all other candidates went through the same – which was not true.

Would Tag have a remedy under the POSH Act if he found Rachel’s behaviour to be sexual and inappropriate?



No, Tag would not have the option of filing a complaint of sexual harassment as the POSH Act only provides remedies to women. However, if the internal anti-harassment policy of the organisation allowed for complaints to be filed by men, he would have been able to do so.

To know more about the law on sexual harassment at the workplace, read this simple explainer.

Do you know of any other scenes that could be covered under the POSH Act? Tell us in the comments below.

Have a question you want to ask our legal experts?

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