The difference between love and sexual harassment

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

Tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, this writer is giving an online lecture on this topic under the auspices of PMAP or People Management Association of the Philippines, the premier and biggest association with more than 3,000 member companies all over the country. More than 200 have confirmed and many more are asking me to conduct this lecture in-house and face-to-face for big conglomerates, including BPO’s, banks, PEZA locators, and even local government units.

The learning session will establish a clear boundary between the employees' freedom and human right to love and get involved in romantic relationships, including marriage among fellow employees, on the one hand, and the company's management prerogatives to discipline and dismiss employees for sexual harassment, serious misconduct, and immorality, on the other hand. This is not just about labor law and HR discipline. This is also about proper decorum, appropriate human interactions and right manners in the workplace. I shall be discussing two laws and more than 20 Supreme Court-decided cases involving termination of managers and damage suits by victims of immoral and sexual assault by superiors and other personnel.

The main focus of tomorrow's seminar are two laws, one promulgated during the Fidel V. Ramos presidency, Republic Act 7877 or the ASHA, Anti-Sexual Harassment Law and the more recent one passed under the Duterte presidency, RA 11313, or the Safe Spaces Act, or the SSA, otherwise known as the "Bawal Bastos Law”.

The Ramos law was very simple: only superiors can be held liable for sexually harassing their subordinates and also teachers, coaches and school officials sexually molesting pupils and wards. Under the old law, the only places where these offenses can be committed are the workplace and the schools or training centers. It was very difficult to find offenders guilty because under RA 7877, there must have been a request for sexual favors.

The Ramos Law was mainly HR and administrative but the Duterte Law involves more than termination of employment and imposes bigger amounts of damages and longer imprisonment. Under the Duterte law, the places for violations include online platforms and public places, and land, sea, and air transport vehicles in addition to the workplace and schools. People can be held guilty whether superiors, peers or even subordinates.

There is no need to establish evidence that a sexual act or sex-related behavior has been committed or was being asked verbally, by body language, explicitly or impliedly. Under Duterte's Anti Bastos Law, even wolf-whistling or catcalling are deemed criminal offenses. I do not know if the Malacañang staff briefed PRRD well that many of his mannerisms themselves may be questioned once he loses presidential immunity.

I will discuss the famous sexual harassment case involving a large courier company's young female employee assigned in Danao City. That girl won her case and she was granted a huge amount of damages and full backwages. The company's failure to act within 10 days was held by the Supreme Court as tantamount to constructive dismissal. The opposite was the famous case of a popular hotel casino in Lahug, Cebu City, where the management was commended for acting quickly and decisively by firing a manager for sexually molesting a job applicant and a female employee of a concessionaire. The offender's dismissal was adjudged as legal, proper, and his complaint was dismissed by the highest court.

There is still time for you to call PMAP and enroll your HR managers and staff, your operations managers and supervisors. It will be a very intensive and extensive four hours from 8 a.m. to noon on Valentine’s Day. And you can get the video from my YouTube channel if you subscribe to Usec JBJ. There are more than 40 learning videos to download for free. In the name of love, they are for free but the seminar is not. But it is well worth it to avoid legal problems and multi-million lawsuits in court.

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