The Maharashtra Government has appointed authorities under the workplace sexual harassment law, more than seven years after it came into force. In this context, let us look at why these authorities are important.
Which authorities can you approach against workplace sexual harassment?
- Internal Committee: Every employer employing at least ten workers at a workplace should establish an Internal Committee to look into complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace.
- Local Committee: Every District Officer should establish a Local Committee in every district, to look into complaints of sexual harassment from workplaces which have no Internal Committee, or in case the complaint is against the employer.
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).
Can the Committee help the woman file a complaint?
Yes. If the aggrieved woman cannot make a written complaint herself, the Presiding Officer/any Internal Committee member, or the Chairperson/any Local Committee member, should reasonably assist the woman in making the written complaint. The woman also has the option to ask her close friends, relatives etc. to file the complaint on her behalf.
Can the Committee extend the time limit to file the complaint?
Yes. The Committee can extend the time limit of three months after giving written reasons, if it believes that circumstances prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the period.
Can the Committee help the woman resolve the issue through conciliation?
Yes, before the Committee begins an inquiry, the aggrieved woman can request it to try settling the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation. However, in a conciliation, parties cannot settle for money.
The 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.
The Committee will not conduct any further inquiry, after settlement through the conciliation. However, if the respondent does not obey any terms of the settlement, the aggrieved woman can inform the Committee, which will then inquire into the complaint or forward the complaint to the police if required.
How does the Committee inquire into the complaint?
The 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 Committee will inquire into the complaint according to the applicable service rules. The Committee will give both parties the opportunity of being heard if they are employees. Both parties will receive a copy of the Committee’s findings so that they can make representation against the findings before the Committee.
To know more about the law on sexual harassment at the workplace, read our explainer.