What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. Its effect is to offend, intimidate or humiliate the victim. A few examples include:
- Unwelcome physical contact.
- Comments or jokes that are suggestive or of a sexual nature.
- Unwanted requests to go out on dates or for sex.
- Staring or leering.
- Pornography in the workplace.
- Sexually explicit emails or text messages between colleagues.
It’s important to remember that sexual harassment is wrong and it’s illegal. It not only covers workplace situations but also when purchasing or providing goods or services or in the course of study.
Sexual harassment can have criminal law implications and/or industrial workplace actions. Severe cases can include sexual assault, stalking, indecent exposure or obscene communications.
Sexual harassment at work
Unlike workplace bullying, sexual harassment at work does not need to be a repeated behaviour. A single incident is enough to constitute sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a particularly difficult area for victims. A person’s work is their livelihood, and workers require environments within which they feel valued for their skills, welcome, and safe.
When workers feel embarrassed, targeted or vulnerable at work they are less likely to perform to their full potential. This can affect not only their mental and physical wellbeing, but their financial security.
Being victimised at work for reporting sexual harassment is another illegal action that occasionally follows the harassment. Often, sufferers of workplace sexual harassment will fail to report their discomfort for fear that they will be disadvantaged at work.
Victimisation can be identified as when a worker is exposed to or threatened with a detriment or adverse action as a result of reporting sexual harassment. This is not condoned by Australia’s fair work laws and employers can be found liable for the victimisation of employees by other employees.
Talk to someone now
Our industrial and criminal law solicitors understand that sexual harassment matters need to be approached not only with complete discretion and sensitivity, but also needs to be handled expeditiously for the overall benefit of the victims.
As there are time limitations for victims to bring claims regarding sexual harassment, it is important that they reach out for support as soon as they are able.
If you are unclear about what constitutes sexual harassment, are unsure of what is involved or are scared to speak out, we recommend that you to speak to an experienced lawyer who can help you find your voice against sexual harassment.
For further information, read our Discrimination, Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Brochure.