Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Everyone has the right to work with dignity, in a discrimination-free workplace.

At Gordon Legal, not only do we have decades of experience in protecting human rights and fighting against discrimination at work, but, as a firm, we are committed to promoting fairness and dignity at work.

We know that it takes courage to speak up. We understand the emotional and professional pressure of doing something about a workplace problem. We know that, sometimes, discrimination is hard to identify, and harder to prove.

But the first step is knowing what your rights are. At Gordon Legal we want to help you understand your rights and take steps to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.  This article sets out some simple guiding principles to help you, so that, whether or not you decide to take action, you can make an informed decision.

Sexual harassment

The laws which protect against discrimination also apply to other forms of behaviour, such as sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is:

  • the making of an unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favours or
  • the engaging in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to another person

where, in all the circumstances a reasonable person would have anticipated that the other person would (or might be) offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) as well as anti-discrimination legislation operating in every State and Territory.

Sexual harassment can occur through words or actions.It can include material transmitted by any means including post, phone, text message, video, e-mail, or on social media. The intention of the perpetrator, and the gender and/or sexual orientation of the perpetrator or target are irrelevant.

Sexual harassment does not have to be directed at a particular individual to be unlawful. Behaviour which creates a sexually hostile working environment can also be unlawful.

As with discrimination, sexual harassment can occur at work and work-related activities, including  at work-related functions, even if they are held away from the workplace, and via social media.

Some practical advice:

At Gordon Legal, we do understand that it is sometimes difficult to take the plunge and make a complaint of discrimination, sexual harassment or similar offending conduct. Making a complaint is a very personal decision, which may be affected by a number of factors, such as emotional anxiety, fear of retaliation or even loss of a job.

 

However, there are some simple practical things you can do, which may help if, one day, you do decide to take action.

  1. Make notes. Whether or not you ultimately decide to take action, you should make clear notes of any troubling incidents, including the date, time and place where they occurred and the names of anyone who was present. Make the notes on the same day, or as close as possible to the day on which the incident occurred, while it is still fresh in your memory. You may never need to use the notes, but if you do, they will be a useful contemporaneous record.
  2. Keep copies. If there are any documents which may help to prove that offending conduct occurred, keep copies of them in a safe place. One day, these documents may be crucial.
  3. Look after your health. If the offending conduct is making you feel anxious or stressed, consult your doctor, explain what has been happening and obtain advice about how to care for your health. In some cases, you may be able to make a claim under workers compensation laws.

 

Please feel free to get in touch with us here at Gordon Legal if you need further advice about potential discrimination you have suffered and what you might be able to do about that.