Foreign airlines come under sexual harassment Act

The Delhi High Court recently said that any foreign airline having even one office in the country is bound by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Background:

  • The High Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation seeking the implementation of the Vishakha guidelines on sexual harassment against women at the workplace in the aviation industry.
  • The case had been transferred as a PIL from another court which was dealing with the plea of an Indian woman, employed with the Sri Lankan Airlines, seeking action against the carrier and its official whom she had accused of sexual harassment.

THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT 2013:

  • The Act seeks to cover all women, irrespective of their age or employment status and protect them against sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organized or unorganized.
  • Building on the Vishakha guidelines, the Act calls for the formation of an internal complaints committee and a local complaints committee at the district level. It came into force on December 9, 2013.

Some important provisions of the Act:

  • The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
  • The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organized or unorganized sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
  • While the “workplace” in the Vishaka Guidelines is confined to the traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act goes much further to include organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation.
  • Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.
  • The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
  • The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
  • The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.
  • Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

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