Key Provisions of the POSH Act
I. Applicability and scope
Applicable Jurisdiction: The POSH Act extends to the ‘whole of India’.
Aggrieved Woman: As per the POSH Act, an ‘aggrieved woman’ in relation to a workplace, is a woman of any age, whether
employed or not, who alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment. Section 2(a) of the Prevention of
Workplace Sexual Harassment Act Given that the definition does not necessitate the woman to be an employee, even a
customer/client who may be sexually harassed at a workplace can claim protection under the POSH Act. The POSH Act further
stipulates that a woman shall not be subjected to sexual harassment at her workplace. Section 3 of the Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act Accordingly, it may be noted that in order for a woman to claim protection under the POSH Act, the incident of sexual harassment should have taken place at the ‘workplace’.
The POSH Act protects only women and is not a gender-neutral legislation and protects only women. Therefore, the safeguards under the POSH Act are not applicable to ‘men victims’.
Covered bodies: The POSH Act applies to both the organized and unorganized sectors having less than 10 workers in India. It inter alia, applies to government bodies, private and public sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, organizations carrying out commercial, vocational, educational, entertainment, industrial, financial activities, hospitals and nursing homes,educational institutes, sports institutions and stadiums used for training individuals and also applies to a dwelling place or a house. Section 2(o) of the Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act
II. What amounts to Sexual Harassment?
The POSH Act defines ‘sexual harassment’ in line with the Supreme Court’s definition of ‘sexual harassment’ in the Vishaka
Judgment. As per the POSH Act, ‘sexual harassment’ includes unwelcome sexually tinted behaviour, whether directly or by
implication, such as (i) physical contact and advances, (ii) demand or request for sexual favours, (iii) making sexually coloured
remarks, (iv) showing pornography, or (v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Section
2(n) of the Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act. The following circumstances, among other circumstances, if they
occur or are present in relation to or connected with any act or behavior of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment:
1 implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment;
2 implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in employment;
3 implied or explicit threat about present or future employment status;
4 interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment; or
5 humiliating treatment likely to affect the lady employee’s health or safety. Section 3(2) of the Prevention of Workplace Sexual
The definition of an ‘employee’ under the POSH Act is fairly wide to cover regular, temporary, ad hoc employees, individuals
engaged on a daily wage basis, either directly or through an agent, contract laborers, co-workers, probationers, trainees, and
apprentices, with or without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, working on a voluntary
basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied. Section 2(f) of the Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act
While the Vishaka Guidelines were confined to the traditional office set-up, recognizing the fact that sexual harassment may not
necessarily be limited to the primary place of employment, the POSH Act has introduced the concept of an ‘extended workplace’.
As per the POSH Act, ‘workplace’ includes any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment,
including transportation provided by the employer for the purpose of commuting to and from the place of employment.
Section2(o) of the Prevention of Workplace Sexual Harassment Act.
V. Complaints Committee
An important feature of the POSH Act is that it envisages the setting up of a grievance redressal forum.
A. Internal Complaints Committee
The POSH Act requires an employer to set up an ‘internal complaints committee’ (“ICC”) at each office or branch, of an
organization employing 10 or more employees, to hear and redress grievances pertaining to sexual harassment