The Internal Committee (IC) of an organization carries a greater responsibility with the powers equivalent to that of the Civil Court. IC not only receives and redresses complaints of sexual harassment but also takes measures to prevent it from happening. However, now and then, they come across some challenging cases. During a recent CecureUs POSH SME meeting, we went about collating some tricky scenarios and how to handle those scenarios. We hope you find this helpful.
A and B are from the same organization. Person A messages Person B on the personal phone- “You are cute and beautiful”. Person B files the complaint to the IC under sexual harassment. She takes a screenshot of the message as evidence.
- Can a screenshot of a personal phone be considered evidence?
- What can be the other evidence in this case?
- The Harasser can delete the chats and say that he never communicated with person B.
How to Handle:-
- Here the authenticity and ownership of the personal phone number need to be verified. As the profile picture in the screenshot alone can be misleading.
- In case of doubt, IC members have to challenge the evidence and do a thorough investigation.
- Detailed examination and investigation of both the complainant and the harasser have to be done.
If a rape or attempt to rape incident happens outside the organization. Both the harasser and Complainant are from the same organization.The Complainant doesn’t want to register FIR.
- Can IC handle the case?
- If rape is attempted at office premises should IC go and report the case to the police station?
How to Handle:-
- A physical assault is a cognizable offence under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). IC should encourage the victim to report the case to the police station and file an FIR. IC should give all the required support to the victim.
- Rape cases should be reported at the police station as they are cognizable offence under the IPC. This case should be reported within 24 hours as it helps in medical investigation.
- If rape is attempted in office, the IC should inform the police about this without the consent of the parties. IC may handle the case in parallel as per the code of civil procedure only.
The organization has given long-term accommodation in a company guest house to their employees with the family. There is a bachelor employee in one of the residential quarters and he gets female friends to the house often. The other families staying on the premises don’t feel comfortable and feel that they are getting affected by it.
- Can this be considered a sexual harassment case?
- Can IC take up this case?
How to Handle:-
- In such cases, the employee has not made any harm or any misconduct with anyone in the quarters.
- Hence this cannot be considered sexual harassment and cannot be taken as a case to IC.
- But the other employees staying at the premises can raise the concern to the company HR if the common areas or any code of conduct is violated in the residential quarters. No moral policing can be done on individuals in their residential quarters.
In a manufacturing company, a male employee XYZ has a habit of touching other male employees’ private parts. XYZ is working with the organization for 11 years. His colleagues take it as a harmless prank and have been ignoring it. One of the newly joined employee files a complaint against XYZ after he faces a similar incident of bad touch.
How to Handle:-
- A detailed investigation is done, and the IC gets to know from the other male employees that XYZ’s intention was not bad, and does this as a prank and not with any malintent.
- Also, XYZ has never displayed this behavior to any of his female colleagues.XYZ mentions that he is not aware that this comes under the Sexual Harassment Act and will stop doing it going forward. He also mentions his family background and seeks an apology.
- IC considers demoting XYZ with a strong written warning. But the management decides to terminate XYZ as these cases cannot be tolerated as per their culture and will amount to setting a wrong precedence.
- Sometimes even after the IC takes the decision, the management of the company can alter and make the final decision. The Management?s decision can be over and above the IC?s recommendations and not in any way lesser than that of the IC?s recommendation.
If this article interests you, or if you have come across any other tricky scenarios, leave a comment below or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.For more blogs and articles, visit our?official website.??Contact us?for workshops and queries related to?POSH,?EAP (Employee Assistance Program,)?and?Diversity and Inclusion.