New Delhi, Sep 12: Employees accused of sexual harassment can be transferred to another office to prevent them from influencing victims and to ensure fair inquiry. The move by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) follows complaints of the accused trying to influence or threaten victims of sexual harassment in a few cases.
The DoPT also said a junior officer can probe charges against seniors accused of sexual harassment. "To ensure fair inquiry, ministries or departments may also consider transferring the suspect officer or charged officer to another office to obviate any risk of that officer using the authority of his office to influence the proceedings of the complaints committee," an order issued recently to all central government departments said.
All complaints committees set up to inquire into charges of sexual harassment should be headed by a woman and at least half of its members should also be women. In case a woman officer of sufficiently senior level is not available in a particular office, an officer from another office may be so appointed, as per existing norms.
It has been directed that to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure, the complaints committee should also involved a third party either Non-Government Organisation (NGO) or some other body which is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.
"The issue of legality of a committee conducting inquiry against an officer against whom there are allegations of sexual harassment but where the chairperson happens to be junior in rank to the suspect officer has been examined.
"It is clarified that there is no bar either in the Central Civil Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules or under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 to the chairperson of the complaints committee being junior to the suspect officer or the charged officer," the DoPT said, adding that "this also does not in any way cause any prejudice to the charged officer".
Sexual harassment includes physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing any pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.
Besides this, implied or explicit promise of preferential or detrimental treatment in employment; implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status; interference with her work, creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment for her; and humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety may also amount to sexual harassment.