I filed a complaint against my office senior trainer for sexual harassment with the Human Relations Department of our company. About two months have passed and I still have not heard anything from my employers about my complaint, making me believe that they are trying to protect him. No investigations, meetings or mediations were conducted regarding my complaint. I want to know if my employers can be liable for not acting on my case. I hope you can advice me on this matter. Thank you and good day!
The answer to your question is found in Republic Act (RA) 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. This law primarily declares unlawful all forms of sexual harassment in places of employment, education or training environments. This law also identifies the persons and even entities that should be made liable in violation of this law.
While the primary person to be held responsible in this case is the perpetrator or the person committing sexual harassment against you, your employers can be made liable too if they fail to make appropriate action regarding the incident. Under the cited law, employers are required to provide proper guidelines, rules and mechanism to admit reports and investigate such incidents. In fact, the law is very specific on the duties of the employer in handling such incidents, to wit:
“SECTION 4. 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:
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. xxx…
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. xxx…” (RA 7877)
As seen from the above cited law, the employers are required to provide procedures in the settlement and prosecution of sexual harassment complaints and also investigate such cases. Their failure to conduct appropriate action can make them liable under the law which states that:
“SECTION 5. 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” (RA 7877).
Thus, by express provision of this cited law, your employer’s failure to take immediate necessary actions as specifically required by law makes them liable for their seemingly deliberate inaction on the incident of sexual harassment in your workplace.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com