The Calcutta High Court has said that same-gender complaints are permitted under the law on sexual harassment at the workplace. The Court held that people of the same gender can complain of sexual harassment against each other. A person of any gender can commit acts of sexual harassment at the workplace.
If a workplace has a gender-neutral policy, both the aggrieved person and the respondent could be either women or men.
How to file a complaint against sexual harassment?
Any aggrieved woman can make a written complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace to the Internal Committee, or Local Committee (if the workplace does not have an Internal Committee).
While filing a complaint, the complainant should submit:
- Six copies of the complaint
- Supporting documents
- Names and addresses of witnesses
Who can assist in making the complaint?
If the aggrieved woman cannot make a written complaint, the Presiding Officer/any Internal Committee member, or the Chairperson/any Local Committee member, should reasonably assist the woman in making the written complaint.
If the woman is unable to make a complaint due to any reason, such as physical/mental incapacity or death, her legal heir or another person (friend, relative, qualified psychologist etc.) can make the complaint.
Is there a time limit to file the complaint?
Yes, the complaint should be filed within three months from the date of the incident of harassment. The concerned Committee may extend the time limit after giving written reasons, if it believes that circumstances prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the period.
Can the complainant resolve the issue through conciliation?
Yes, before the concerned Committee begins an inquiry, the aggrieved woman can request it to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation. However, no monetary settlement should be made as a basis of conciliation.
The concerned Committee will record any settlement reached through conciliation, and forward the information to the employer or the District Officer to take recommended action. The aggrieved woman and the respondent will receive copies of the settlement.
Once a conciliation settlement is reached, the concerned Committee will not conduct any further inquiry. However, if the respondent does not obey any terms of the settlement, the aggrieved woman can inform the concerned Committee, which will then inquire into the complaint or forward the complaint to the police if required.
How does the concerned Committee inquire into the complaint?
The concerned Committee will send a copy of the complaint to the respondent within seven working days.
Within ten working days of receiving the copy, the respondent must file their response along with documents, and witness details.
If the respondent is an employee of the workplace, the concerned Committee will inquire into the complaint according to the applicable service rules. If both the complainant and respondent are employees, the Committee will give both parties the opportunity of being heard. Both parties will receive a copy of the Committee’s findings so that they can make representation against the findings before the Committee.