16th Apr 2013

sexual harrasment

Republic Act No. 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (RA 7877), is the governing law for work, education or training-related sexual harassment. RA 7877 states that “work, education or training-related sexual harassment is committed by 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, 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.

It must be emphasized that the demand of a sexual favor need not be explicit or stated. Although it is true that RA 7877 calls for a ‘demand, request or requirement of a sexual favor, it is not necessary that the demand, request, or requirement of a sexual favor be articulated in a categorical oral or written statement. In one case, the Supreme Court considered the offender’s act of mashing the breast of his student sufficient to constitute sexual harassment.

Specifically, in a work-related or employment environment, sexual harassment is committed 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.

On the other hand, in an education or training environment, sexual harassment is committed:

(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.

In Narvasa vs. Sanchez, a senior bookkeeper filed a case for sexual harassment against the municipal assessor. In the said case, the respondent handed notes to the victim “Gay, I like you.”, as well as text messages saying “Ka date ko si Mary Gay… ang tamis ng halik mo.” , “Pauwi ka na ba sexy?”, “I slept and dreamt nice things about you.”, “Have a date with me.”, among others. He would also whisper to the victim “Oy flawless, pumanaw ka met ditan” while twice pinching her upper left arm near the shoulder in a slow manner. Furthermore, during a field trip, the respondent tried to kiss the victim. In such case, the Supreme Court held the respondent guilty of sexual harassment.

In Domingo vs. Rayala, a case involving a stenographer as the victim and the NLRC Chairman as the perpetrator, the Supreme Court enunciated that 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. Thus, in holding and squeezing the victim’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 resound with deafening clarity the unspoken request for a sexual favor.

However, in sexual harassment cases, the acts complained of must be in consonance with human experience. In Digitel vs. Soriano, the Director for Market and Communications sued her superiors, which were the Senior Vice-President and Senior Executive Vice- President. The woman filed a complaint for sexual harassment 11 months after she tendered her resignation. The woman claimed that during a company party, while they were seated in the sofa, one of the perpetrators crept his hand under a throw pillow and “poked” her vagina several times. She justified her failure to flee by claiming that she was hemmed in by the arm of the sofa. Furthermore, she claimed that thereafter, when she was dancing with one of the perpetrators, the latter groped her breasts and buttocks.

In this case, the Supreme Court did not give credence to the allegations of the woman and dismissed the charges of sexual harassment. The Supreme Court ratiocinated that if indeed the perpetrators performed the condemnable act, why didn’t the woman slap the perpetrators and left the event. The Supreme Court further held that any woman in her right mind, whose vagina had earlier been “poked” several times without her consent and against her will, would, after liberating herself from the clutches of the person who offended her, raise hell.

RA 7877 mandates that the employer or the head of the work-related, educational or training environment or institution must provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment. The employer must create a committee on decorum and investigation of cases on sexual harassment. 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.

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.

Commission of sexual harassment is a criminal offense. A person found guilty of sexual harassment shall 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. 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 under for sexual harassment.

Damages resulting from sexual harassment may be separately and independently instituted. In fact, 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.

Nicolas & De Vega Law Offices is a full service law firm in the Philippines. You may visit us at the 16th Flr., Suite 1607 AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines. You may also call us at +632 4706126+632 4706130+632 4016392.

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