Sexual Harassment

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  • Sexual harassment may be committed in a work-related/employment environment or in an education/training environment.
  • The offender may be one who has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another.
  • The offense is committed when there is a demand, request, or requirement for sexual favor from another, regardless of whether such is accepted or not.
  • The law requires employers or heads of office to perform certain duties at the pain of being solidarily liable with the offender.
  • The Decorum and Investigation Committee is the one tasked to investigate and resolve sexual harassment cases.
  • Any action for sexual harassment prescribes in three (3) years.

Legal basis

  • R.A. 7877, Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995; and
  • Supreme Court Decisions.

Concept

Work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by an offender 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 R.A. 7877. (Section 3, R.A. 7877)

“Sexual harassment is an imposition of misplaced ‘superiority’ which is enough to dampen an employee’s spirit and her capacity for advancement. It affects her sense of judgment; it changes her life.” (Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. No. 155831, 18 February 2008)

The offender

Direct offender

The direct offender may be 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. (Section 3, R.A. 7877)

Indirect offender

Any person who directs or induces another to commit any act of sexual harassment, or who cooperates in the commission thereof by another without which it would not have been committed, shall also be held liable. (Last paragraph, Section 3, R.A. 7877)

How committed

In a work-related or employment environment

Sexual harassment is committed in a work-related or employment environment, 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. (Section 3(a), R.A. 7877)

In an education or training environment

Sexual harassment is committed in an education or training environment:

(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. (Section 3(b), R.A. 7877)

Demand, request, requirement

In a complaint involving a respondent who allegedly kissed the complainant on numerous occasions to her surprise, the case for sexual harassment was dismissed. “Indeed, from the records on hand, there is no showing that respondent judge demanded, requested or required any sexual favor from complainant in exchange for favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotion or privileges specified under Section 3 of R.A. 7877. Nor did he, by his actuations, violate the Canons of Judicial Ethics or the Code of Professional Responsibility.” (Aquino v. Acosta, A.M. No. CTA-01-1, 02 April 2002)

“A mere casual buss on the cheek is not a sexual conduct or favor and does not fall within the purview of sexual harassment under R.A. No. 7877. Section 3 (a)…” (Aquino v. Acosta, A.M. No. CTA-01-1, 02 April 2002)

Even if the offender has no authority to approve employment but made it appear that he did so in order to commit the prohibited acts of sexual harassment, then there may be a violation. (Jacutin v. People, G.R. No. 140604, 06 March 2002)

When not necessary

“Yet, even if we were to test (the respondent’s) acts strictly by the standards set in Section 3, RA 7877, he would still be administratively liable. It is true that this provision calls for a ‘demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor.’ But it is not necessary that the demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor be articulated in a categorical oral or written statement. It may be discerned, with equal certitude, from the acts of the offender. Holding and squeezing (the complainant’s) shoulders, running his fingers across her neck and tickling her ear, having inappropriate conversations with her, giving her money allegedly for school expenses with a promise of future privileges, and making statements with unmistakable sexual overtones – all these acts of (the respondent) resound with deafening clarity the unspoken request for a sexual favor.” (Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. Nos. 155831, 155840, 158700, 18 February 2008)

“Likewise, contrary to (the respondent’s) claim, it is not essential that the demand, request or requirement be made as a condition for continued employment or for promotion to a higher position. It is enough that the respondent’s acts result in creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for the employee. That the acts of (the respondent) generated an intimidating and hostile environment for Domingo is clearly shown by the common factual finding of the Investigating Committee, the (Office of the President) and the (Court of Appeals) that (the complainant) reported the matter to an officemate and, after the last incident, filed for a leave of absence and requested transfer to another unit.” (Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. Nos. 155831, 155840, 158700, 18 February 2008)

“While in (the) Aquino (case), the Court interpreted the acts (the respondent judge) as casual gestures of friendship and camaraderie, done during festive or special occasions and with other people present, in the instant case, (the respondent-NLRC Chairman’s) acts of holding and squeezing Domingo’s shoulders, running his fingers across her neck and tickling her ear, and the inappropriate comments, were all made in the confines of (the respondent’s) office when no other members of his staff were around. More importantly, and a circumstance absent in Aquino, (the respondent’s) acts, as already adverted to above, produced a hostile work environment for Domingo, as shown by her having reported the matter to an officemate and, after the last incident, filing for a leave of absence and requesting transfer to another unit.” (Domingo v. Rayala, G.R. Nos. 155831, 155840, 158700, 18 February 2008)

Duty of the Employer or Head of Office

The employer or the head of the work-related, educational or training environment or institution, has the following duties:

(1) 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;

(2) Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations, including proper decorum in the workplace and education or training institutions, in consultation with and joint1y 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;

(3) Create a committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment; and

(4) Disseminate or post a copy of R.A. 7877 for the information of all concerned. (Section 4, R.A. 7877)

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. (Section 5, R.A. 7877)

Decorum and Investigation Committee

The committee shall conduct meetings, as the case may be, with all concerned to increase understanding and prevent incidents of sexual harassment. It shall also conduct the investigation of alleged cases constituting sexual harassment. (Section 4(b), R.A. 7877)

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. (2nd paragraph, Section 4(b), R.A. 7877)

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. (3rd paragraph, Section 4(b), R.A. 7877)

Administrative sanctions not a bar to prosecution

Administrative sanctions shall not be a bar to prosecution in the proper courts for unlawful acts of sexual harassment. (Section 4(a), R.A. 7877)

Independent action

The victim may institute a separate and independent action for damages and other affirmative relief. (Section 6, R.A. 7877)

Penalties

Upon conviction, the offender may 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. (Section 7, R.A. 7877)

Prescription

Any action arising from a violation of this law shall prescribe in three (3) years.

No strict time period to file an action

“The gravamen of the offense in sexual harassment is not the violation of the employee’s sexuality but the abuse of power by the employer. Any employee, male or female, may rightfully cry ‘foul’ provided the claim is well substantiated. Strictly speaking, there is no time period within which he or she is expected to complain through the proper channels. The time to do so may vary depending upon the needs, circumstances, and more importantly, the emotional threshold of the employee.” (Philippine Aeolus Automotive United Corporation v. NLRC, Cortez, G.R. No. 124617, 28 April 2000)

“(The complainant) admittedly allowed four (4) years to pass before finally coming out with her employer’s sexual impositions. Not many women, especially in this country, are made of the stuff that can endure the agony and trauma of a public, even corporate, scandal. If (the respondent) corporation had not issued the third memorandum that terminated the services of (the complainant), we could only speculate how much longer she would keep her silence. Moreover, few persons are privileged indeed to transfer from one employer to another. The dearth of quality employment has become a daily ‘monster’ roaming the streets that one may not be expected to give up one’s employment easily but to hang on to it, so to speak, by all tolerable means. Perhaps, to (the complainant’s) mind, for as long as she could outwit her employer’s ploys she would continue on herb and consider them as mere occupational hazards. This uneasiness in her place of work thrived in an atmosphere of tolerance for four (4) years, and one could only imagine the prevailing anxiety and resentment, if not bitterness, that beset her all that time. But (the alleged offender) faced reality soon enough. Since he had no place in (the complainant’s) heart, so must she have no place in his office. So, he provoked her, harassed her, and finally dislodged her; and for finally venting her pent-up anger for years, he ‘found’ the perfect reason to terminate her.” (Philippine Aeolus Automotive United Corporation v. NLRC, Cortez, G.R. No. 124617, 28 April 2000)

Delay, however, must be justified

“While, as this Court stated in Philippine Aelous, there is, strictly speaking, no fixed period within which an alleged victim of sexual harassment may file a complaint, it does not mean that she or he is at liberty to file one anytime she or he wants to. Surely, any delay in filing a complaint must be justifiable or reasonable as not to cast doubt on its merits… At all events, it is settled that the only test of whether an alleged fact or circumstance is worthy of credence is the common experience, knowledge and observation of ordinary men.” (Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. v. Soriano, G.R. No. 166039, 26 June 2006)

References

  • R.A. 7877, Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995
  • Jurisprudence or Supreme Court Decisions