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Understanding Your Rights: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace


According to a ReachTel poll for Shine, an alarming 19% of women have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace, while 75% of women surveyed said that they were unhappy with the outcome of their complaint.

The Australian Human Rights commission has also found that only 45% of workplace sexual harassment stops after a complaint or report has been made. These alarming statistics demonstrate that there is still a stigma when it comes to reporting sexual harassment incidents in the workplace that needs to be addressed. 1

Have You Been Sexually Harassed in the Workplace?

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) describes sexual harassment as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It is said that if a reasonable person would anticipate this behaviour could offend, humiliate or intimidate, it may be considered sexual harassment.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) also highlights sexually suggestive remarks, so-called office banter/humour, personal questions about your private life, inappropriate physical conduct or inappropriate text messages as behaviours that may constitute sexual harassment.

What to do if You’re Being Sexually Harassed in the Workplace?

It is important to note that Under section 106 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) employers can be liable if an employee commits sexual harassment, and if the employer did not take reasonable steps to ensure the offending employee does not commit further harassment. 2

Will Barsby, one of our Employment Law experts says you should always try to “keep a record about workplace sexual harassment if it is safe to do so”. He also believes you should try and muster up the courage to talk to a work friend or colleague to report the incident, talk to a family member, report it or talk to a GP, whilst doing this may be difficult, the sentiment here is to make sure you do something.

In 2018 we have seen an increase in the number of people calling out sexual harassment incidents worldwide, with popular figures using their reach to create the #NowAustralia movement eliminate the stigma in this country. 3 To join the Now Australia Movement go to https://now.org.au/.

Should I Seek Legal Advice?

If you believe you or a friend/family member have been sexually assaulted at the workplace than you should seek legal advice. The employment law specialists at Shine Lawyers are available to speak about your case confidentially, contact us now for an obligation-free consultation.

  1. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/national-press-club-everyones-business-2018-sexual-harassment-survey
  2. https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/policy-agenda/advancing-the-profession/equal-opportunities-in-the-law/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace
  3. https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/new-survey-shows-sexual-harassment-is-rife-complaints-are-ignored-women-fear-for-their-jobs/

Written by Shine Lawyers on October 31, 2018. Last modified: November 28, 2018.

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