Sexual Harassment Laws in India and the US 21:41, August 14, 2016

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Sexual Harassment Laws in India and the US

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Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, still common in the United States, as shown by data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is also a global concern, as shown by recent interpretation of sexual harassment law in India. This post touches upon Indian law and policy to provide insight into United States sexual harassment law.

The India Times reports: “Women employees who have complained of sexual harassment can get three months leave during the pendency of inquiry,” according to Union minister Jitendra Singh’s statement to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s Parliament).

This is an interpretation of India’s The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (the “Act”). “Such leave may be granted by the employer if a written request from the aggrieved employee duly recommended by the local committee or the internal committee, as the case may be, is received,” Union minister Singh continued. The Act defines an aggrieved employee as a woman who has been “subjected to any act of sexual harassment,” which includes physical advances, demand for sexual favors, “sexually coloured” remarks, showing pornography, or “any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.” The Act proscribes how an employer (or the state) may settle, inquire into, and resolve a complaint.

While interpretation of Indian law is beyond the scope of this post, Union minister Singh’s comments create talking points about American sexual harassment law. Primarily, unlike India, the US does not expressly recommend that employers provide leave for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace (there are higher protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, however, especially on the state level).

It is not uncommon for employers to grant leave to either the victim of sexual harassment or the alleged perpetrator as it conducts an investigation into the victim’s allegations. Doing so may help alleviate possible conflict between the victim and the perpetrator that may arise if they worked with each other. For example, a subordinate who alleges sexual harassment against a supervisor may experience or interpret the supervisor’s consequent behavior as retaliation for her complaints. Ultimately, the course of action depends on the situation and an employer’s sexual harassment policy. Notably, transferring a victim to another work site, and leaving the alleged harasser in place, is troublesome, as shown by the failure of leadership at the National Park Service to properly investigate and remedy sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment may be common; however, employers can (and should) take steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the first place. It may seem like a tall order, but employers can take tangible steps to prevent harassment and discrimination, such as creating a compliance culture and a sense of purpose, hiring discrimination experts (like Airbnb) and beefing up sexual harassment policies and practices.

An employer can also engage in online compliance training. LawRoom provides online compliance training on sexual harassmentethics, FCPA and data security to thousands of companies and universities. To learn more, visit us here: LawRoom.com.

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Douglas Kelly
Douglas Kelly is EverFi's lead legal editor. He writes on corporate compliance and culture, analyzing new case law, legislation and regulations affecting US companies. Before joining EverFi, he litigated federal and state employment cases and wrote about legal trends. He earned his JD from Berkeley Law and BBA from Emory University.

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