International Newsletter

‘Safe Spaces Act’ Increases Protections Against Sexual Harassment Online and in Workplaces in Philippines

May 26, 2020
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In April 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11313 (known as the “Safe Spaces Act”) with the aim of ensuring the equality, security, and safety of every individual, in both private and public spaces, including online and in workplaces.

The law supplements the existing Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 by broadening the crime of sexual harassment in the workplace to include the following:

  • Any act involving any unwelcome sexual advances, requests, or demands for sexual favors or any act of a sexual nature, whether done verbally, physically, or through the use of technology, that has or could have a detrimental effect on the conditions of an individual’s employment, job performance, or opportunities
  • Any conduct of a sexual nature or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of a person, which is unwelcome, unreasonable, and offensive to the recipient
  • Any conduct that is unwelcome and pervasive and creates an intimidating, hostile, or humiliating environment for the recipient

In addition, the law explicitly provides that the crime of gender-based sexual harassment may also be committed between peers, by a subordinate to a superior officer, or by a trainee to a trainer. This widens the scope from that set out in the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, which required that for any act to be considered harassment, the offender had to be more senior than the person who was harassed.

Duties of Employers

The law imposes a duty on employers and any other person of authority, influence, or moral ascendancy in the workplace to prevent, deter, or punish acts of gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace. This duty entails disseminating to all persons or posting in a conspicuous place a copy of the applicable law in the workplace, providing measures to prevent gender-based sexual harassment in the workplace, creating an independent internal mechanism or a committee on decorum and investigation to investigate and address complaints, and providing and disseminating a code of conduct or workplace policy. To ensure compliance, the Department of Labor and Employment shall conduct random inspections every year.

Acts of gender-based sexual harassment are punishable by administrative sanctions, without prejudice to other applicable laws. Employers that fail to comply with their duties, including taking action on reported acts of gender-based sexual harassment committed in the workplace, are subject to fines.

Written by Roy Enrico C. Santos and Raya Grace T. Tan of Puyat Jacinto & Santos Law Offices and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins

© 2020 Puyat Jacinto & Santos Law Offices and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.