Workplace sexual harassment
FAQs - your questions answered
Sexual harassment is when someone engages in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards another person, in circumstances where a reasonable person would expect that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Workplace sexual harassment can be verbal or in writing.
Behaviour can be sexual harassment regardless of whether it is done to you or done in front of you.
Examples of conduct that can constitute workplace sexual harassment include:
- propositioning someone for sex or sexual favours
- sexual text messages or emails
- using social media to send sexual messages
- making an unwelcome sexual advance
- unwelcome comments or questions about a person's sex life
- unwelcome comments about a person's attire or physical appearance
- suggestive behaviour such as leering or ogling
- unnecessary physical contact such as brushing up against someone, touching or fondling
- jokes, anecdotes, or comments of a sexual nature
- displaying sexually offensive visual material such as photos, pinups, calendars, screensavers, emails, magazines or pornography
- sexual propositions or continued requests for dates, and
- conduct that would also constitute a criminal offence such as rape or sexual assault.
In addition to seeking legal advice, you can also do a number of simple things which may assist. They include:
- Keep a diary. Take notes of all the unwanted conduct of a sexual nature and harassment that happens to you, when it happens and who the perpetrator is.
- Be informed. Make sure you have a copy of your contract of employment, enterprise agreement and workplace policies and procedures that deal with occupational health and safety and harassment.
- If you are a union member, contact your union. Many unions are experienced in dealing with sexual harassment. If the sexual harassment is affecting a number of employees there are advantages to addressing it collectively.
- Address the situation early. Employees who are subject to workplace sexual harassment often put the issue to one side and wait before it gets really bad before addressing it. By this time the employee may have already suffered a work related stress injury or continuing in employment might not be a realistic option.
- Make a complaint. Employees who make a complaint or inquiry in relation to their employment are protected from adverse action under the Fair Work Act 2009. It is better if the complaint is in writing because this will be easier to use as evidence should the need arise. When writing a complaint be concise and stick to the key points.
- Take care of your health. Your mental and physical health is very important. If harassment is affecting you, make sure you see your doctor about it.
- Seek advice. Working out which legal or practical decisions to make can be difficult with workplace sexual harassment cases. We can provide support and advice on a range of legal and personal matters.
Behaviours involving unwanted physical contact or damage to property may also constitute criminal offences. If you experience any such behaviour, you should consider reporting the matter to the police.