How to resolve a Sexual Harassment Complaint at Workplace?

January 18th, 201810:27 pm @    


The Sexual Harassment Complaint Process

There are six stages involving fifteen steps, for addressing a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace.

STAGE ONE: RECEIPT OF THE COMPLAINT

The complaints committee  must be equipped to conduct an enquiry that is fair, prompt and impartial. Moreover, trust and confidence must be the essence of such an enquiry. (To understand the formation of Complaint Committee, please follow this link – How to Complaint against sexual harassment at the workplace)

Step 1: Receive and Acknowledge Receipt of the Complaint

  • The complainant must submit a complaint of sexual harassment in writing within three months of the last alleged incident to the Complaints Committee or any other person designated by an organization to receive and manage complaints of sexual harassment.
  • Upon receipt, the complaint should be reviewed.
  • The complainant must be notified in writing to acknowledge receipt.

Step 2: Meet and talk to the Complainant to Explore Options for Formal and Informal Resolution

The complainant must be informed of the formal and informal options available for redress.

Step 3: Informal Mechanism

This includes

  • Counseling, educating, orienting or warning the respondent to stop the unwelcome behavior.
  • Resolving the complaint through conciliation by appointing a neutral person to act as a conciliator between the parties.
  • Where an informal process is successful the resolution must be recorded by the conciliator and forwarded to the ICC/LCC who must forward the same to the employer/District Officer for further action, based on the resolution.

Step 4: Formal Mechanism

  • The Complaints Committee must respond to the complaint when the complainant opts for a formal redress.
  • The members of the Complaint Committee must be neutral, nonpartisan and detached from the parties to the complaint or with the outcome.

Step 5: Respondent and Response

  • The Complaints Committee must inform the respondent in writing that a complaint has been received, within 7 days of receiving a complaint.
  • The respondent must respond to the complaint in writing within 10 days.

 

STAGE TWO: CAREFUL PLANNING

Step 6: Prepare the File

An impartial and substantial inquiry requires the following:

  • Documentation: by creating an independent confidential file of the complaint.
  • Review Law & Policy: having a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Act/Rules and related Service Rules, Workplace policy and related laws.
  • Make a list: of all dates and events relating to the written complaint and the names of witnesses.
  • Supporting Documents: procure and inspect the relevant supporting documents related to the complaint.
  • Quick Response: the Complaints Committee must create a plan to ensure that all crucial components are subsumed, including the name of the parties and witnesses to be interviewed, examination of any document and tackling the grievance within a timeline.

Step 7: Consideration

During the pendency of an inquiry:

  • The complainant may make a written request for her transfer or transfer of the respondent or, for leave up to 3 months.
  • The respondent may be restrained from reporting on her work performance or writing her confidential report or supervising her academic activities (where she is in an educational institution).
  • Support
  • Prompt communication with the parties.
  • Provide assistance to the complainant, such as counseling, addressing health related concerns or sanctioning of leave, if she requires.

 

STAGE THREE: INTERVIEWS

Step 8: Prepare an Interview Plan for the Hearing of Complainant, Witnesses, Respondent

  • Before conducting interviews the Complaints Committee must decide the issues that need to be pursued for questioning.
  • The information obtained from the individuals must be relevant to the complaint.
  • Interviews must be conducted separately with each person. The complainant and the respondent must not be brought face to face with each other.

Step 9: Assess the Information Collected

The Complaints Committee must review the information gathered and assess the factual relevance in order to make a finding on the complaint.

 

STAGE FOUR: REASONING

Step 10: The Complaints Committee after gathering and reviewing all the information must make reasoned findings

Step 11: Create a timeline to establish a sequence of events related to the complaint.

Step 12: Compare the similarities and identify the differences in the statements made by the interviewees.

 

STAGE FIVE: FINDING AND RECOMMENDATION

Step 13: Finding

  • The complaints committee must arrive at a finding of whether the complaint is upheld, not upheld or inconclusive.
  • Before finalizing the findings, the ICC/LCC must share it’s finding with both the parties and give them an opportunity to make representation against it before the Committee.

Step 14: Recommendation

The Complaints Committee may make the following recommendations based on its findings:

  • Where the complaint is not upheld, no action shall be recommended.
  • Where the complaint is upheld, it may recommend such action that are stated within the Service Rules, which may also include a warning to terminate. In the absence of Service Rules, the following actions may be recommended:
  • Disciplinary action, including a written apology, reprimand, warning
  • Withholding promotion, pay raise or increment
  • Termination
  • Counseling
  • Community service
  • It may also recommend financial damages to the complainant and shall consider the following while deciding the amount:
  • Mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused
  • Medical expenses incurred
  • Loss of career opportunity
  • Income and financial status of the respondent
  • The Complaints Committee may also give additional recommendations to address factors contributing to sexual harassment at the workplace.

 

STAGE SIX: REPORT

Step 15: Writing the Report

The final report of the Complaints Committee must include:

  • A description of the different aspects of the complaint
  • A description of the process followed
  • A description of the background information and documents supporting or refuting each aspect of the complaint
  • An analysis of the information obtained
  • Findings
  • Recommendations

Moreover, an inquiry must be completed within 90 days and a final report must be submitted to the employer or District Officer within 10 days thereafter. The report must also be made available to the concerned parties. The Employer or District Officer is under an obligation to act on the recommendations within 60 days. Any person not satisfied with the findings or recommendations of the Complaints Committee or non-implementation of the recommendations may appeal in an appropriate court or Tribunal, as prescribed under the Service Rule.

Therefore, in order to fulfill and achieve the legislative intent, it is imperative and vital to treat complaints made by women fairly and justly and it must not be dismissed. Although, making a false or malicious complaint and providing forged or misleading evidence or documents is an offence.

Article by

Anasuya is pursuing LL.M from Faculty of Law, Delhi University and intends to enter academics. Writing is something that she has always cherished and a medium through which she believes that one can communicate and reach out, especially in law which is such a complex, dynamic and multifaceted subject.

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