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What is workplace sexual harassment and victimisation?

A person is sexually harassed if they're subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct by someone else in a way that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating.

When someone makes a complaint about sexual harassment, they can sometimes be treated badly because of this. This is called victimisation. Our employment lawyers often speak to clients who are too afraid to come forward with their complaint because they fear they will be treated differently at work. 

Both sexual harassment at work and victimisation are against the law. Employers can be held liable for the harassment or victimisation of an employee by an employer, manager or supervisor, or another employee.

Who can make a sexual harassment claim?

Under the the Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 or similar state legislation, you can make a claim for workplace sexual harassment if someone in the workplace has approached you in a sexually inappropriate way. Unlike workplace bullying, workplace sexual harassment does not need to be repeated, it can be a one-off incident.

Our team of employment lawyers are here for you if you need any legal advice or assistance with your claim.

How can an employment lawyer help with my claim?

Most claims resolve either through our employment lawyers dealing directly with the employer, or their legal representatives, or through a confidential conciliation. In many cases we can avoid the need to go to court. When we do need to go to court, our employment lawyers have extensive experience to guide and fight for you through the court process.

We've resolved many sexual harassment claims on behalf of clients. Our specialist employment lawyers will fight for the compensation you deserve, while protecting your current and future earnings and professional reputation. Our employment lawyers are recognised as the only national First Tier law firm for employees in Doyle’s ‘Guide to the Australian Legal Profession’.

We believe there is a real opportunity to improve the laws in Australia in order to provide protection and safety in the workplace, and equal access to justice for all. We're calling for reforms that will both reduce the risk of sexual harassment and provide greater assistance to victims.

What can you do if you're being sexually harassed at work?

Keep a diary

Take notes of all the workplace harassment that happens to you, including when it happens and who did it.

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. These policies may also detail the form and process for making a complaint. 

Contact your union

If you are a union member, contact them. Many unions are experienced in dealing with sexual harassment. If the harassment is affecting a number of employees there are advantages to addressing it collectively.

Address the situation early

Employees who are subject to sexual harassment often put the issue to the side and wait before it gets really bad before addressing it. By this time you may have already suffered a lot of stress and you may not be able to continue working.

Make a complaint

Employees who make a complaint are protected from adverse action under the Fair Work Act 2009 and specific protections against victimisations. A complaint in writing is preferable as it's easier to use as evidence if needed. When writing a complaint, be concise and stick to the key points. Your employer might have policies detailing the complaint process. Complaints can also be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission or state-based human rights commissions. Time limits may apply. Ideally, you should act early and get advice prior to making a complaint.

Take care of your health

Your mental and physical health is very important. If workplace 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 discrimination cases. An employment lawyer can provide support and advice on a range of legal and personal matters so you know where you stand.

We're by your side

Our employment law team has an outstanding record of achieving successful outcomes for employees in both the private and public sector. We know how to navigate this increasingly complex and ever-changing area of the law.


Book an initial consultation with an employment lawyer. Your first consultation costs $690 (incl GST).


At your one hour consult, your employment lawyer will provide advice on your situation, the best action to take, and next steps. 


Most of our cases are resolved out of court, and discretion is assured.

Maurice Blackburn has won more than $3 million in unpaid wages and entitlements for our clients while continuing to pursue 7-Eleven franchisees to recover money that is owed to the workers.

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Employment law

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Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.

We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.