Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Primer on RA 7877 or the “Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995”

What is the policy of the State with regards sexual harassment?

The State values the dignity of every individual, enhances the development of its human resources, guarantees full respect for human rights, and upholds the dignity of workers, employees, applicants for employment, students or those undergoing training, instruction or education. Towards this end, all forms of sexual harassment in the employment, education or training environment are declared unlawful. (Section 2)

How is sexual harassment defined in RA 7877?

Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor, or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment, demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from the other, regardless of whether the demand, request or requirement for submission is accepted by the object of said act. (Section 3)

How is sexual harassment committed in a work-related or employment environment?

Sexual harassment is committed in this situation when:

1. The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions, or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee;

2. The above acts would impair the employee's rights or privileges under existing labor laws; or

3. The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.

How is sexual harassment committed in an education or training environment?

Sexual harassment, in this kind of environment is committed:

1. Against one who is under the care, custody or supervision of the offender;

2. Against one whose education, training, apprenticeship or tutorship is entrusted to the offender;

3. When the sexual favor is made a condition to the giving of a passing grade, or the granting of honors and scholarships, or the payment of a stipend, allowance or other benefits, privileges, or consideration; or

4. When the sexual advances result in an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the student, trainee or apprentice.

Any person who directs or induces another to commit any act of sexual harassment as herein defined, or who cooperates in the commission thereof by another without which it would not have been committed, shall also be held liable under this RA 7877.

What is the duty of the employer or head of office in a work-related, education or training environment?

It shall be the duty of the employer or the head of the work-related, educational or training environment or institution, to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment. Towards this end, the employer or head of office shall:

(a) Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations in consultation with and jointly approved by the employees or students or trainees, through their duly designated representatives, prescribing the procedure for the investigation of sexual harassment cases and the administrative sanctions therefor.

Administrative sanctions shall not be a bar to prosecution in the proper courts for unlawful acts of sexual harassment.

The said rules and regulations issued pursuant to this subsection (a) shall include, among others, guidelines on proper decorum in the workplace and educational or training institutions.

(b) Create a committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment. The committee shall conduct meetings, as the case may be, with officers and employees, teachers, instructors, professors, coaches, trainors, and students or trainees to increase understanding and prevent incidents of sexual harassment. It shall also conduct the investigation of alleged cases constituting sexual harassment.

The employer or head of office, educational or training institution shall disseminate or post a copy of RA 7877 for the information of all concerned.

Who shall comprise the committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment?

In the case of a work-related environment, the committee shall be composed of at least one (1) representative each from the management, the union, if any, the employees from the supervisory rank, and from the rank and file employees.

In the case of the educational or training institution, the committee shall be composed of at least one (1) representative from the administration, the trainors, instructors, professors or coaches and students or trainees, as the case may be.

What is the liability of the employer, head of office, educational or training institution?

The employer or head of office, educational or training institution shall be solidarily liable for damages arising from the acts of sexual harassment committed in the employment, education or training environment if the employer or head of office, educational or training institution is informed of such acts by the offended party and no immediate action is taken.

Besides filing a case under RA 7877, can the victim also file other charges?

The victim of work, education or training-related sexual harassment can institute a separate and independent action for damages and other affirmative relief.

What are the penalties provided for under RA 7877?

Any person who violates the provisions of this Act shall, upon conviction, be penalized by imprisonment of not less than one (1) month nor more than six (6) months, or a fine of not less than Ten thousand pesos (P10,000) nor more than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000), or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court.

What is the prescriptive period for filing of cases of sexual harassment?

Any action arising from the violation of the provisions of RA 7877 shall prescribe in three years. (In layman’s terms, this means that an incident of sexual harassment must be filed with the fiscal’s office within three years after it occurred. Otherwise, it can no longer be prosecuted.)

Postscript: To know more about what sexual harassment is, please read the complete text of the Supreme Court decision in Mollaneda vs. Umacob [G.R. No. 140128. June 6, 2001] where the Department of Education Division Superintendent of Davao City was found guilty of the charge of sexual harassment.In the case of Biboso vs. Villanueva (A.M. No. MTJ-01-1356. April 16, 2001), the respondent, a judge from Sultan Kudarat, was found innocent of the charge of sexual harassment.