PRIMER ON WORK-RELATED SEXUAL HARASSMENT*
By Atty. Apollo XCS Sangalang
December 17, 2013 (Version 1.1)
(*The citations on most of the reference materials have been omitted in this primer. These references may however be supplied upon request).
What is the concept of work-related sexual harassment (or “SH”)?
According to the Supreme Court, SH 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 here life.”
What is the nature of work-related SH?
SH is a form of discrimination in the workplace that is sexual in character. Hence, it is
How does the law define work-related SH?
According to the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 7877), SH is
committed by an employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, trainor, or any
other person who, having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work
or training 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.
More specifically, SH is committed when:
(1) The sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, reemployment or continued employment of said individual, or in granting said individual
favorable compensation, terms, conditions, promotions, or privileges; or the refusal to
grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which
in a 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
(3) The above acts would result in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for
Attached as ANNEX A is a copy of RA No. 7877 for reference.
Is it necessary for the offender to articulate his demand, request or requirement of sexual
favor in a categorical and overt manner or in the form of a written or verbal statement?
No. According to the Supreme Court, SH “may be discerned, with equal certitude, from the
acts of the offender.”
Example: 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 overtones – all these acts of the offender resound with deafening clarity
the unspoken request for a sexual favor.
Is it essential that the demand, request or requirement for a sexual favor be made as a
condition for continued employment or for promotion to a higher position?
No. According to the Supreme Court, it is enough that the offender’s acts result in creating
an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment for the victim.
Who can commit and be held liable for SH?
1. Any male or female can commit it. A male offender can commit it against either a male
or female victim. A female offender can commit it against either a male or female victim.
2. It can be committed by any employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer,
trainor, or any other person who has authority, influence or moral ascendancy over
3. SH can also be committed by any person who directs or induces another to commit it, or
who cooperates in the commission thereof by another without which it would not have
Is SH a crime?
Yes. But it is also an administrative offense against company policy, which is made
mandatory by RA No. 7877.
As a crime, what is the penalty for SH?
Any person who violates the provisions of RA No. 7877 shall, upon conviction, be
penalized by imprisonment of not less than 1 month nor more than 6 months, or a fine of
not less than P10,000 nor more than P20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment at the
discretion of the court.
As an administrative offense, what is the penalty for SH?
It depends on existing company policies. However, administrative sanctions shall not be a
bar to prosecution in the proper courts for the crime of SH. Neither shall it preclude the
victim from instituting a separate and independent (civil) action for damages and other
What is the duty of the employer under RA No. 7877?
It shall be the duty of the employer to prevent or deter the commission of SH and to
provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of SH. Towards this
end, the employer shall:
(a) Promulgate appropriate rules and regulations in consultation with and jointly
approved by the employees, through their duly designated representatives, prescribing the
procedure for the investigation of SH cases and the corresponding administrative
(b) The said rules and regulations shall include, among others, guidelines on proper
decorum in the workplace.
(c) Create a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CoDI). The committee shall
conduct meetings, as the case may be, with other officers, managers and employees,
trainors and trainees to increase understanding and prevent incidents of SH. It shall also
conduct the investigation of the alleged cases of SH. The CoDI shall be composed of at
least 1 representative each from the management, the union, if any, the employees from
the supervisory rank, and from the rank and file employees.
(d) The employer shall disseminate or post a copy of RA No. 7877 for the information of
Attached as ANNEX B is a template of a company policy on SH circulated and
recommended by DOLE to be adopted by all employers (BWC Guidelines No. 2
Series of 2013).
Attached also as ANNEX C is a copy of the existing policies on SH promulgated by
the Civil Service Commission for comparative reference.
What is the liability of the employer?
The employer shall be solidarily liable for damages arising from SH committed in the
employment environment if the offended party informed the employer of such acts and no
immediate action was taken thereon.
The employer may likewise be held liable for constructive dismissal if the offended party
was forced to resign due to the employer’s inaction.
What is the quantum or degree of evidence required to prove that a person is guilty of SH?
For the crime of SH, it is proof beyond reasonable doubt as determined by the proper
criminal court (i.e. the Metropolitan Trial Court).
However, for violating company policy on SH, an employer may hold any erring manager
or employee administratively liable on the basis of substantial evidence.
What is substantial evidence?
In cases filed before administrative or quasi-judicial bodies, including disciplinary cases in
the workplace, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence,
or “that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate
to justify a conclusion.”
In criminal cases, proof beyond reasonable doubt is needed, whereas a mere preponderance
of evidence will suffice in civil cases. In administrative cases, only substantial evidence is
In essence, substantial evidence is the least exacting, in terms of weight or sufficiency of
evidence, for the determination of a disputed fact. However, it is still beyond mere
conjecture or bare allegation. It is more than a mere scintilla (or spark) of evidence. But it
is less than preponderance, such that, even if other minds equally reasonable might
conceivably have a different opinion, a reasonable mind would still accept it as adequate
to justify a conclusion.
What is an example of substantial evidence?
In the landmark case of Domingo vs. Rayala, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of
the CoDI upholding the testimony of the victim, a mere stenographer, against the testimony
of the offender who happened to be the NLRC Chairman. Rayala was suspended for 1 year
as it was merely his first SH offense. His acts, which he claimed to be fatherly or friendly
and without malice, was found by the CoDI to have generated an intimidating and hostile
environment for Domingo causing her to take a leave and request for transfer of
Can SH be established solely on the basis of the testimony of the victim?
Yes. SH cases are being approached by the courts like rape cases, wherein the victim is
usually the lone witness. Like rape, SH often happens in an isolated, secluded or vacated
place, where the only parties present are the offending and the offended parties. However,
it is crucial that the witness is credible and that the content of her testimony is equally
credible. Her narration of facts should be in consonance with human experience.
Is malicious intent (or the intent to commit SH) an essential element in an administrative
case of SH?
No. The Supreme Court said that intent is immaterial in administrative cases. Substantial
evidence is sufficient to establish the existence of SH, whether malice or lewd intent is
present or not. Recall that the essence of SH is that it is as act of discrimination and “an
imposition of misplaced superiority.” It is work-related harassment and the demand,
request or requirement for sexual favor just happens to be the means.