House approves expanded anti-sexual harassment bill
Stiffer penalties may soon await those who will commit sexual harassment in the workplace or while in training and in educational institutions after the House of Representatives approved on Monday night the “Expanded Anti-Sexual Harassment Act.”
With 162 voting in the affirmative, and zero negative and abstention, the chamber approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 8244.
The bill aims to expand the definition of sexual harassment, strengthen the mechanisms to monitor compliance with policies against sexual harassment in the workplace and in educational and training institutions, as well as prescribe penalties for violations. It also seeks to repeal Republic Act (RA) No. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.
Under RA No. 7877, violators face imprisonment of not less than one month nor more than six months, or a fine between P10,000 to P20.000. Under HB 8244, those who will commit sexual harassment will be penalized with jail time of from one to six months or pay a fine of from P50,000 to P200,000.
Moreover, the bill mandates that maximum penalties be imposed if the perpetrator is anyone who has authority, influence, or moral ascendancy over another’s work, training or education.
Under the present law, work, education or training related sexual harassment is “committed by an employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainer, 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.”
HB 8244 however expands the definition of sexual harassment as: “an act, which may be committed physically, verbally, visually or with the use of information and communications technology, including any other means, that would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the victim. This is regardless if the act is done within or outside the place of employment, training, or education.”
Once enacted into law, the measure also requires the employer or head of office in a work-related, education, or training institution to implement a comprehensive written policy on sexual harassment. He/she should also:
– promulgate appropriate rules and regulations;
– create a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) within one year of the agency’s existence or initial operations; and
– resolve cases within 15 days from the submission by the CODI of its report to the disciplining authority.
The CODI is then mandated to:
– receive complaints of sexual harassment;
– investigate the complaints;
– constitute a hearing committee for every case;
– submit a report with a corresponding recommendation for decision within a non-extendible period of 30 days;
– lead in the conduct of discussions within the institution to increase understanding of sexual harassment and prevent its incidents; and
– provide security and support measures to the victims, among others.
The right to privacy of the victim must be ensured at any stage of the investigation, prosecution, and trial of any offense under the bill unless explicitly authorized by the victim.
Any individual who violates the confidentiality provision will be meted out with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000.
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