By Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter
THE BILL expanding the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace or educational institutions has hurdled second reading at the House of Representatives.
The chamber, via voice voting, approved House Bill 8244, Expanded Anti-Sexual Harassment Act, which will widen the scope of sexual harassment to include a single or a series of acts that may be physical, verbal or visual and may be committed through technology that could result in an intimidating, hostile and offensive environment.
The measure will repeal Republic Act 7877, the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, which merely defines sexual harassment as being committed upon the demand or request of any sexual favor from a person having authority over another in the workplace.
The bill also provides that offenders may be imprisoned for one to six months, or be sanctioned with a fine of P50,000 to P200,000, or both.
The fine is much stiffer than the penalties currently provided by the law, which range only from P10,000 to P20,000.
The bill also stipulates that should the perpetrator be the employer or head of office, the maximum penalties shall be imposed.
Further, the measure proposes to sanction individuals who violate the right to privacy of a sexual harassment victim with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000.
The measure also ensures that the employer or head of the institution where the harassment was committed shall be held liable if proven to be neglectful of duty.
An employer or head of the institution is considered liable “if he/she has knowledge or is presumed to have knowledge of such acts or acts constituting sexual harassment and no immediate action is taken.”
Upon enactment, companies or educational institutions shall be required to create the Committee on Decorum and Investigation which shall be tasked to resolve sexual harassment complaints within 15 days from submission.