Safe Spaces Act in the Workplace with Sample Description of Procedure and PoliciesAtty Elvin
R.A. 11313, which is an act defining gender-based sexual harassment in streets. Public spaces, online, workplaces, and educational or training institutions, providing protective measures and prescribing penalties therefor. This Act is known as the “Safe Spaces Act”.
It is the policy of the State to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights. It is likewise the policy of the State to recognize the role of women in nation-building and ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men. The State also recognizes that both men and women must have equality, security and safety not only in private, but also on the streets, public spaces, online, workplaces and educational and training institutions.
Certain terms to take note of are:
Catcalling refers to unwanted remarks directed towards a person, commonly done in the form of wolf-whistling and misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs.
Gender refers to a set of socially ascribed characteristics, norms, roles, attitudes, values and expectations identifying the social behavior of men and women, and the relations between them.
Gender-based online sexual harassment refers to an online conduct targeted at a particular person that causes or likely to cause another mental, emotional or psychological distress, and fear of personal safety, sexual harassment acts including unwanted sexual remarks and comments, threats, uploading or sharing
of one’s photos without consent, video and audio recordings, cyberstalking and online identity theft.
Gender identity and/or expression refers to the personal sense of identity as characterized, among others, by manner of clothing, inclinations, and behavior in relation to masculine or feminine conventions. A person may have a male or female identity with physiological characteristics of the opposite sex in which case this person is considered transgender.
Public spaces refer to streets and alleys, public parks, schools, buildings, malls, bars, restaurants, transportation terminals, public markets, spaces used as evacuation centers, government offices, public utility vehicles as well as private vehicles covered by app-based transport network services and other recreational spaces such as, but not limited to, cinema halls, theaters and spas.
Stalking refers to conduct directed at a person involving the repeated visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication, or a combination thereof that cause or will likely cause a person to fear for one’s own safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress.
Duties of Employers:
- Employers or other persons of authority, influence or moral ascendancy in a workplace shall have the duty to prevent, deter, or punish the performance of acts of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace. Towards this end, the employer or person of authority, influence or moral ascendancy shall:
- (a) Disseminate or post in a conspicuous place a copy of R.A. 11313 to all persons in the workplace;
- (b) Provide measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the conduct of anti-sexual harassment seminars;
- (c) Create an independent internal mechanism or a committee on decorum and investigation to investigate and address complaints of gender-based sexual harassment which shall:
- Adequately represent the management, the employees from the supervisory rank, the rank-and-file employees, and the union, if any;
- Designate a woman as its head and not less than half of its members should be women;
- Be composed of members who should be impartial and not connected or related to the alleged perpetrator;
- Investigate and decide on the complaints within ten (10) days or less upon receipt thereof;
- Observe due process;
- Protect the complainant from retaliation; and
- Guarantee confidentiality to the greatest extent possible;
- Provide and disseminate, in consultation with all persons in the workplace, a code of conduct or workplace policy which shall:
- Expressly reiterate the prohibition on gender-based sexual harassment;
“Gender-based sexual harassment, whether committed online or otherwise, is prohibited and penalized. This includes acts that cause terror and intimidation of victims through physical, psychological, and emotional threats, unwanted sexual misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist remarks and comments online whether publicly or through direct and private messages, invasion of victim’s privacy through cyberstalking and incessant messaging, uploading and sharing without the consent of the victim, any form of media that contains photos, voice, or video with sexual content, any unauthorized recording and sharing of any of the victim’s photos, videos, or any information online, impersonating identities of victims online or posting lies about victims to harm their reputation, or filing, false abuse reports to online platforms to silence victims.”
(2) Describe the procedures of the internal mechanism created under Section 17 (c) of R.A. 11313; and
Sample Description of Procedure
“Any officer or employee, who experiences or witnesses any act of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace, shall report the same immediately to the Committee on Decorum and Investigation (Committee). The Committee shall be an ad hoc group that will be tasked to conduct the investigation of such allegation. A woman shall be appointed as its head and not less than half of its members should be women. All members should be impartial and not connected or related to the alleged perpetrator. The appointed HR personnel, Department Head, Legal and immediate superior shall compose the Committee as well.
If any of the Committee members is the subject of the investigation, he shall automatically cease to be a member and he will be replaced by another upon appointment of the remaining Committee members.
Any officer or employee, may also report acts of gender-based sexual harassment to any other member of the company’s management or ownership. All allegations of gender-based sexual harassment will be quickly investigated.
To the extent possible, the identity of the officer or employee shall remain confidential and that of any witnesses and the alleged harasser will be protected against unnecessary disclosure. When the investigation is completed, all parties will be informed of the outcome of the investigation.
A Committee on Decorum and Investigation shall be constituted and shall be composed of the management and the employees’ representative to receive complaints, investigate and hear gender-based sexual harassment cases. The Committee shall develop its own rules in the settlement and disposition of gender-based sexual harassment cases. The Committee shall also develop and implement programs to increase understanding and awareness about gender-based sexual harassment.”
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