Jhatkaa.org Policy Against Sexual Harassment
III. GUIDING PRINCIPLES
V. MANDATE OF THE INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE
VI. INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE
VII. COMPLAINT REDRESSAL MECHANISM
X. PROTECTION AGAINST VICTIMIZATION
XII. FALSE ACCUSATIONS
Jhatkaa.org (“Jhatkaa” or “Trust”) is committed to creating and maintaining a secure work environment where its teams, agents, vendors and partners can work and pursue services together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation and intimidation caused by acts of sexual harassment within but not limited to the office premises and other locations directly related to the Trust’s services.
The objective of this policy is to provide protection against sexual harassment of individuals at the workplace and for the prevention of such harassment and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith.
All concerned should take cognizance of the fact that Jhatkaa.org has zero tolerance to sexual harrassment and that such behaviour against individuals is prohibited by the law set down in The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and rules framed there under being The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (hereinafter referred to as “Act”) as well as the terms of employment. Commission of any act of sexual harassment as defined in the Act and in this policy shall result in strict disciplinary action.
At Jhatkaa.org, we have zero-tolerance for sexual harassment in any form. We value each and every team member working with us and wish to protect their dignity and self respect. In doing so, we are determined to promote a working environment in which persons of all genders complement each other as equals in an environment that encourages maximum productivity and personal growth. Our policy aims to cover all the provisions mentioned in the above law, and to also protect all genders from any form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
We at Jhatkaa.org are committed towards providing every team member a just and fair hearing on issues encountered by them at the workplace with special attention to sexual harassment. Jhatkaa.org will take very serious disciplinary action against any victimization of the complainant and/or the accused.
Jhatkaa.org’s policy with regard to prevention, prohibition and redressal of Sexual Harassment covers every ‘team’ across the Trust. Jhatkaa.org encourages every team member who believes they are sexually harassed to use the redressal mechanism as provided in this policy.
The scope of the policy is not limited to geographical location viz. Trust’s offices /branches but includes all such places or locations where acts are conducted in context of working relationships or while fulfilling professional duties or which may be visited by a team member during the course of employment including transportation provided by the Trust for undertaking such visits. Jhatkaa.org’s Policy against sexual harassment includes sexual harassment by fellow team members, consultants, volunteers, as well as agents, contractors, customers, vendors, partners and, visitors including outsourced teams.
Sexual harassment is judged by the impact on the complainant and not the intent of the accused. Sexual harassment as addressed in this policy need not necessarily be from male to female, it can be vice versa as well as between individuals of the same gender. In case of a sexual harassment complaint, a counter complaint would be separately dealt with, not in the same complaint.
III. GUIDING PRINCIPLES
At Jhatkaa.org we aim to create an equitable, inclusive and democratic society. The focus of POSH is to proactively act on complaints of sexual harassment towards any gender. While the POSH Act focuses only on women, we believe that any individual irrespective of their gender can face harassment therefore we have a gender neutral policy covering both the complainant and the respondent.
While our policy is gender neutral we do acknowledge the principles of power which can be attributed to an individual’s gender, therefore we shall keep a gender-just outlook while addressing the complaints of sexual harassment. To recognize that vulnerable groups are particularly prone to harassment and also find it more difficult to complain. Vulnerability can be socially compounded by region, class, caste, sexual orientation and identity, minority identity and by being differently abled. Enabling committees must be sensitive to such vulnerabilities and special needs.
While the Internal Complaints Committee(ICC) is a way for solving civil disputes we should also understand that sometimes legal frameworks can be intimidating for individuals we reiterate that the ICC process is not really one where the complainant carries the burden of proof. It is not an interrogative process, but more of a listening exercise, one where the committee tries to work with the complainant on ways forward, without the added burden of any interface with the accused.
The guiding principle of the redressal mechanism is to investigate sexual harassment complaints on a case by case basis, and take retributive and restorative measures, along with measures that go beyond, if required.
- “Complainant” means a person in relation to the workplace whether employed or not, who alleges to have been subject to any act of sexual harassment by the Respondent.
- “Trust” means Jhatkaa.Org.
- “Team” means a person employed at a workplace for any work on regular, temporary, adhoc, daily wages basis, or volunteer either directly or through an agent, including a contractor, with or, without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, apprentice or called by any other such name;
- “Internal Complaints Committee” means a committee constituted by the Trust as per this policy.
- “Respondent” means a person against whom the aggrieved person has made a complaint
- “Sexual Harassment” As per the Act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication towards women employees): (a)physical contact and advances; (b) a demand or request for sexual favors; (c) making sexually colored remarks; (d) showing pornography; or (e) any other unwelcome physical,verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Some of the examples but not restricted to include:
- PHYSICAL CONDUCT
- Indecent exposure
- Coerced sexual intercourse
- Blocking passage or walkways
- Sexual assault or using criminal force to any individual, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty
- Unwelcome physical contact including patting, pinching, stroking, kissing, hugging, fondling, or inappropriate touching or unnecessary close proximity
- Physical contact or attempt thereof when the victim is under the influence of any intoxicating substance, drugs or alcohol and thereby is not fit to withhold consent or refuse to participate in any activity of sexual nature
- Physical contact or attempt or preparation thereof by rendering a person directly or abetting in so rendering a person under the influence of any intoxicating substance, drugs or alcohol and thereby prevent the person from withholding consent or refusing to participate in any activity of sexual nature
- Physical violence, including sexual assault
- VERBAL CONDUCT
- The use of job-related threats or rewards to solicit sexual favours
- Teasing, innuendos and taunts, physical confinement against one’s will or any such act likely to intrude upon one’s privacy
- Comments on personal appearance, comments on physical features, age, sexual orientation, etc.
- Rumors about an individual’s sexual behavior/ identity.
- Sexual comments, stories and jokes, using crude or obscene language or gestures or trolls
- Sexual advances and invitations for physical intimacy
- Repeatedly asking to socialize during off-duty hours or continued expressions of sexual interest after the recipient has made it clear that such invitations are not welcome
- Repeatedly making suggestive comments or innuendos that, while perhaps minor in themselves, gain in offensiveness as they accumulate
- NON VERBAL CONDUCT
- Offensive gestures, staring, leering, hooting or whistling with the intention to insult or discomfort another
- Sounds, gestures or display of written materials of a sexual nature, including books, pictures, cartoons, magazines, calendars, screensavers
- Viewing, making, posting, showing or mailing pornographic posters, Internet sites, sexually demeaning or offensive pictures, cartoons or other materials through use of any media or through technology
- Giving gifts or leaving objects that are sexually suggestive;
- Making or posting sexual pranks, sexual teasing, sexual jokes through email, SMS, MMS or any other means
- Display of sexually explicit or suggestive material in any form and through the use of any technology
- Sexually-suggestive gesture either in person or through the use of any media or technology
- Persistent watching, following, contacting of a person either physically or virtually
- Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
- Sexual Harassment may be part of a pattern of behavior or occur only once. It may be directed at an individual or at a group of people. It may take place during face to face contacts, but can also be inflicted by means of telephone calls, letters or emails.
- Following circumstances amongst other circumstances mentioned above may constitute sexual harassment if it occurs or is present in relation or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment:
- Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in their employment;
- Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in their employment;
- Implied or explicit threat about their present or future employment status;
- Interfering with their work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment; humiliating treatment likely to affect their health or safety
- Humiliating treatment likely to affect the physical and mental health and safety of the aggrieved person.
- “Workplace” includes any department, organization, undertaking, establishment, enterprise institution, and office or branch unit (whether offline or online). Any place visited by the team arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation provided by the employer for undertaking such journey.
- Gender neutral: The policy is applicable to individuals of all genders. Respondent and complainant can be practising/associating/identifying with any gender.
- Gender Just: Women, non-binary and trans individuals have historically been subject to sexual harassment more than men. Therefore, while men can raise sexual harassment complaints, the historic power hierarchies which often lead to discrimination and harassment shall be the guiding principle of the ICC while addressing cases of sexual harassment.
V. MANDATE OF THE INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE
This Committee is NOT about moral policing. The role of the Committee is to create awareness about sexual harassment and to deal with and take action against acts of sexual harassment, not to curtail acts of consensual sexual expressions. Members are expected to be sensitive to the issue and not let personal biases and prejudices (whether based on gender, sexuality, caste, class, religion, ability) and stereotypes (e.g., predetermined notions of how a “victim” or “accused” should dress or behave) affect their functioning as members of the committee.
The ICC will deal with sexual harassment complaints, including receipt of complaints, formal and informal enquiry and redressal (discussed in subsequent sections) in a just manner. The ICC must also maintain records of each complaint they receive and how they have been resolved. This documentation, while maintaining anonymity of parties concerned, will be sent as part of the ICC annual report-back.
The ICC will function as a body for hearing grievances and aims to create a safe space for all it’s team members. The body would function to uphold zero tolerance for sexual harassment at the workplace.
The ICC will proactively move to curb all forms of harassment of employees whether it is from those in a dominant power or hierarchical relationship within the Organization or from peers or from third parties.
Moreover, ICC shall monitor the implementation of the sexual harassment policy in order to evaluate its effectiveness and make necessary changes if required by conducting a half yearly review of the efficacy and implementation of the anti-sexual harassment policy.
VI. INTERNAL COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE:
Every complaint received shall be forwarded to the internal complaint committee (ICC) formed under the policy for redressal. The investigation shall be carried out by the ICC constituted for this purpose.
Internal Complaints Committee has been constituted of the following members as nominated by the Trust.
- A woman team member employed at a senior level amongst the teams shall act as presiding officer of the committee.
- Not less than 2 members from amongst teams preferably committed to the cause of individuals or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge.
- An external member, selected by the organisation, will be part of the ICC proceedings.
- The term of the committee shall be two years.
Process of nomination of ICC members
- A woman team-member employed at a senior level is nominated at an all-team meeting. Majority of the team present at this meeting must approve the addition of this member
- Any other woman team-member, preferably a non-manger, will also be nominated in an all-team meeting, with majority vote
- A woman trustee is also nominated by the Board. In case this board member steps down or retires from the Board, another woman trustee will be nominated by the Board to take her place.
- Any other person, who is a trustee or team-member, nominated by the Board or at an all-team meeting
- The ICC will therefore have a minimum number of 4 members, with a quorum of 3 people to conduct any investigation for any complaint brought to it
- In case an ICC member is the complainant, that individual will be recused from participating as an ICC member and will not be privy to the investigation proceedings
- Towards the end of its term, The Presiding Officer of the ICC must send a report-back to the team about the work done by the ICC, and initiate the nominations for the reconstitution of the ICC.
- The name of the members of the Internal Complaints Committee is as per Annexure A of this Policy and any change in such composition shall be effected in the policy.
- At least half the total members of the Committee have to be women.
VII. COMPLAINT REDRESSAL MECHANISM
Any aggrieved person may make, in writing, in person or online, a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace to the committee giving details of the sexual harassment they have experienced within a period of 6 months from the date of incident, which may be extended, if circumstances warrant such extension in the opinion of the Internal Complaints Committee.
- The Presiding Officer or any member of the Internal Complaints Committee can render reasonable assistance to the person for making the complaint in writing, in case they are unable to do so.
- On receipt of complaint, the Internal Complaint Committee shall decide the place and time for hearing the complaint and shall intimate the date, time and place of hearing to the Complainant and Respondent. The Internal Complaints Committee shall follow the principle of Natural Justice while handling such complaints.
- Where the aggrieved person is unable to make a complaint on account of their physical incapacity, mental incapacity, or for any other reason, a complaint may be filed by
- a relative or friend; or
- a co-worker; or
- an officer of the National Commission for Women/men or State Women’s/men’s Commission; or
- Any person who has knowledge of the incident, with the written consent of the aggrieved person.
- Any person who has knowledge of the incident jointly with any of the above.
- Where the aggrieved person is dead, a complaint may be filed by any person who has knowledge of the incident, with the written consent of their legal heir.
- Internal Complaints Committee on receipt of such written complaint may, if required, ask the complainant to furnish additional information about the alleged harassment.
- In cases where the Complainant is not willing or able to come forward to file the complaint, or where the Complainant is unable to file the complaint as the same is time barred, HR can initiate a disciplinary inquiry and action can be taken under Jhatkaa.org’s Employee Code of Conduct. HR can also, if required, can recommend the case to the Internal Complaints Committee for further investigation.
- The Complainant or person authorized on their behalf as per above provision, shall make a complaint to the Internal Complaints Committee through the following mode:
- Copy of complaint along with supporting documents and names and addresses of witness shall be sent to Internal Complaints Committee at [email protected].
- On receipt of such complaint, Internal Complaints Committee shall provide a copy along with supporting documents of such complaints to the Respondent within 7 working days.
- Respondent must file a reply within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint along with list of documents, names and addresses of witnesses. Respondents and complainants, both, may also additionally file documents during the enquiry, as they feel fit.
- Internal Complaint Committee shall investigate in detail into the matter of the complaint. The Internal Complaint committee shall have the right to call the person against whom the complaint is made or any other witnesses as and when necessary.
- Internal Complaint Committee shall have the right to terminate the enquiry or give ex-parte decision on the complaint, if the Respondent or complainant remains absent for 3 consecutive hearings, without sufficient cause.
- The Internal Complaint Committee must complete its investigation within a period of 90 days
- The parties shall not be allowed to bring any legal practitioner to represent them in their case at any stage of the proceedings before the Internal Complaints Committee.
- For conducting the enquiry the quorum of the Internal Complaints Committee shall be of 3 members including the presiding officer and the external member.
- The Internal Complaint Committee shall ensure that the respondent does not cross question the complainant directly. All dialogue with respect to the case shall be mediated by the ICC. Further, both the parties must never be made to sit across each other at all through the procedure
- The Internal Complaint Committee may, at the aggrieved person’s request, attempt to settle the matter through conciliation. However, the Internal Complaints Committee shall ensure that:
- Monetary settlement will not be made as a basis of conciliation.
- The Internal Committee shall take steps to ensure that the conciliation is out of the free will and consent of the Complainant and not due to any fear, force, fraud, undue influence or misrepresentation.
- Where the settlement is arrived at, the Internal Committee shall record the same and obtain the signatures of the parties and forward the same to the management and close the case. However if the Complainant informs the Internal Committee that any of the terms or conditions of the settlement have not been complied with by the Respondent, the Internal Committee shall proceed to hear the compliant in accordance with the procedure laid down herewith.
- Where, a settlement is arrived as mentioned herein above, no further enquiry shall be conducted by the Internal Complaints Committee.,
- The complaints enquiry procedure shall, on such withdrawal, be terminated, save in instances in which the Enquiry Committee is informed, knows, or has reason to believe, that the reasons for such withdrawal are the consequences or effect of coercion and intimidation exerted by the respondent(s), or any person on her/his/their behalf, on the complainant. In such an instance, the complaints enquiry proceedings shall continue in accordance with the procedure outlined in the policy.
- The Internal Complaints Committee may during such investigation exercise the power of a civil court, vested in it, in respect of:
- summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him/her/they under oath;
- requiring discovery and production of documents;
- any other prescribed matter.
- During such enquiry, upon written request by the aggrieved person, the committee may at its discretion recommend:
- to transfer the aggrieved person or the respondent to any other workplace;
- grant leave to the aggrieved person of up to one month which is in addition to leave to which they are otherwise entitled.
- Provided, the aggrieved person justifies reason for such transfer or leave, such as threat to work in the workplace, mental distress, potential retaliation and presence of hostile work environment.
- ICC shall treat all the information received and the details of both the Complainant and the accused confidentially and maintain strict confidentiality throughout the process as per established guidelines.
- ICC shall maintain all records viz. the written complaint, the notes of the meetings and the evidence action taken report, etc. for future reference.
- Additionally, ICC shall inform the Complainant of the availability of criminal provisions for redressal in addition to the internal compliant mechanism and assist the Complainant in filing a police case where assistance is requested.
There will also be attempts at every step of the enquiry and the punishment to treat the offender as a human being susceptible to changing one’s behavior on positive suggestions and social pressures. Redressal shall involve supportive measures for the complainant and protection against victimization.
Filing of a grievance or complaint will not reflect upon/adversely affect the complainant’s or respondent’s or witnesses’ status, future evaluation of grades, assignments, employment, promotion etc.
As a general principle, everyone who is associated with redressal of sexual harassment needs to be sensitive towards both the respondent and the complainant. To this end, it is advisable that they undergo periodic orientation and training.
- The Committee shall on completion of the enquiry provide a report of its findings within 10 days from the date of completion of the enquiry and such report shall be made available to the concerned parties.
- If the allegation against the respondent has not been proved, the Committee may recommend that no action needs to be taken in the matter.
- If the Internal Complaints Committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has been proved, it shall recommend to:
- take action for sexual harassment as misconduct.
- to tender written apology to the complainant, issue warning, withholding of promotions/increments of the respondent, terminating the respondent.
- to deduct from salary/wages of the respondent or issue direction for payment; such sum as it may consider appropriate to be paid to the aggrieved person or to their legal heirs, as it may determine.
- Complainant can suggest the action against the respondent and ICC shall determine the veracity of case to consider these suggestions.
- Such action will be taken within 60 days of the receipt of report.
- There are 2 situations in which an aggrieved party might file for appeals:
- In case the aggrieved party is not happy with the conclusion drawn by the ICC and feels that they might have additional information, which was not previously shared/disclosed to the ICC, that might have an impact on the conclusion drawn in its report
- In case the aggrieved party feels that the Guiding Principles have not been followed by the ICC
- False Accusations:
- Jhatkaa.org has zero tolerance towards sexual harassment. However, false accusations will be treated with utmost seriousness.
- If the Internal Complaint Committee comes to a conclusion that the allegation was made with malicious intent or the aggrieved person or any other person making the complaint on behalf of the aggrieved person produced false or forged or misleading documents to prove his/her/their case, the Internal Complaint Committee may recommend action to be taken against the person who has made the complaint, following the guiding principles of retributive/ restorative measures. In such a case, malicious intent has to be established after an inquiry, before any action is recommended.
- A mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof would not attract action as provided herein.
- A similar recommendation for taking action would be recommended against any witness whom the Internal Complaint Committee concludes, that they has given false evidence or produced forged or misleading documents.
- It is to be noted that this statement is not intended to discourage teams from coming forward with any complaints. Jhatkaa.org recognizes and expects that some claims may be difficult to prove or support, or may not in fact be found to raise to the level of seriousness deemed necessary to constitute sexual harassment. These types of complaints will not be considered to be false accusations.
- The aggrieved party may:
- Email to [email protected] reason why they feel the need for appeal within 15 days from the ICC submitting its findings.
- Also provide any additional information, not provided to the ICC before, fully stating reasons why this disclosure was omitted during the ICC investigation process.
- The board would have to discuss the case with the ICC at the next Board meeting and take a decision within the next 45 days whether to uphold the conclusion drawn by the ICC or to provide its own report, different from the ICC report.
X. PROTECTION AGAINST VICTIMIZATION
ICC should make efforts to ensure that the complainant(s), respondent(s) and the witnesses are not victimized or discriminated against at any time during or after the enquiry process as a result of their respective roles in a particular case of complaint.
For instance, if the complainant is a non-manager and the respondent is a manager, the respondent will not act as manager to the particular individual. If the complainant and the respondent are both employees working together on one or more tasks, alternative arrangements shall be made to carry out the task such that interaction between the two are not allowed. If the respondent is an outsider, they shall not be allowed to enter the premises of the organisation during the period of enquiry. These changes may be continued as long as necessary.
ICC shall take action against anyone who intimidates the complainant(s), respondent(s), witnesses or members of the committee, during or after the enquiry process.
- All the teams, volunteers, agents, customers, vendors, partners and visitors shall have access to this policy at any given point of time and clarification related to this policy shall be addressed by the HR team.
- A brief shall be given to all existing teams regarding the features of this policy immediately on formulation of the policy and to new teams in Jhatkaa.org during their initial Induction.
- The Trust shall comply with all other details as set out in the Act to ensure that all teams are provided with a safe working environment at the workplace.
- Trust shall display the notice showing the name of the Internal Complaints Committee members at its every establishment at a conspicuous place.
- Trust will organize programs for the gender sensitization of the Jhatkaa.org community through workshops, seminars, posters, film shows, debates, skits, etc. It may enlist the help of specialized NGOs to carry out these programs.
- Trust shall empanel a list of counselors to extend support in specific instances of sexual harassment as well as to facilitate gender sensitization in general. In specific instances, ICC will inform the complainant, the respondent and other interested parties about the contact details of the panel and encourage them to use the same.
- Trust may make any alteration or amendment or rescind any of the clauses of this policy as and when it finds it necessary to do so as long as it complies with the Act. Any such alterations or amendment or rescinding will be intimated to the team.
- Nothing contained in these rules shall operate in derogation of any law for the time being in force or to the prejudice of any right of any team under any other rules or law.
- The Internal Complaint Committee shall prepare an annual report with the following details and shall submit the same to the Trust to include in its Annual report:
- number of complaints of sexual harassment received during the year
- number of complaints resolved during the year;
- number of cases pending for more than 90 days;
- number of gender-sensitisation workshops / awareness programs carried out;
- nature of action taken by the employer.
Complaints relating to sexual harassment shall be handled and investigations will be conducted under the principles of natural justice, basis of fundamental fairness, in an impartial and confidential manner so as to protect the identity of all viz., the person bringing the charge, potential witnesses, and the person accused of improper behaviour. Also, all efforts shall be taken to ensure objectivity and thoroughness throughout the process of investigation.
The identity and address of the aggrieved person, respondent and witnesses must not be published or disclosed to the public or media.
The decision of Trust shall be final and binding on all. However, the same is without prejudice to any recourse that Trust or the individual concerned may have against the respondent and it shall not limit or restrict the rights of the Complainant and/or Trust to pursue, nor shall they be precluded from pursuing, such further and other legal actions as may be available.
ANNEXURE – A
Composition of Internal Complaints Committee (From April, 2018-20)
1. Devyani Kacker, trustee, member – [email protected]
2. Punita Maheswari, Campaigner, G&S, contractee – [email protected]
3. Divya Narayanan, Campaigns Director, contractee – [email protected] (Chairperson)
4. Nooruddin Patloor, Finance Manager, trustee – [email protected]
5. Aparna Ashokan, Operations Director, Member/Volunteer – [email protected]
6. Priya Varadarajan, External member – [email protected]
At Jhatkaa.org we aim to create zero tolerance to sexual harassment and have drafted this policy in accordance to POSH Act, 2013. We strive to create a safe space for individuals and we may have missed out on some details while drafting this policy, please reach out to [email protected] in case of concerns.