Sexual harassment in a workplace is:
Sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual behaviour, or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. The intent of the person who engages in the sexual harassment does not matter.
‘Conduct of a sexual nature’ includes subjecting a person to any act of physical intimacy, making verbal or written statements of a sexual nature to a person or about a person in their presence, or making any gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature in a person’s presence.
Sexual harassment may occur in a single incident or a series of incidents. It can be physical, verbal or written.
Sexual harassment may be subtle, rather than explicit or obvious. It frequently, but not always, involves an abuse of power and/or trust and is often directed at a person who may not be able to stop the behaviour easily. The behaviour may occur either at a work location, or outside the workplace if it occurs in connection with work (e.g. at workplace-related functions, during travel that is connected with work). The gender of the two parties is not relevant.
Sexual harassment does not include consensual conduct occurring within a personal relationship of mutual attraction and/or friendship based upon the choice and consent of both parties.
Sexual harassment is unlawful in accordance with the laws mentioned below.
The following are examples of sexual harassment:
An employer may be liable for sexual harassment engaged in by its workers. This is known as “vicarious liability”, and it means that if a worker engages in sexual harassment at, or in connection with, a workplace, the person affected by the harassment can make a claim against either the worker, the employer, or both.
Your employer also has an obligation under work health and safety laws to provide you with a safe workplace. Employees also have obligations to ensure that their conduct does not endanger the health of other people. If you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, that may create a risk to your health and well being, contravening work health and safety laws.
If you have been sexually harassed at work, our resources can help you understand your options.
Tribunals and Commissions with which you can lodge a sexual harassment claim:
Sexual harassment is unlawful in accordance with the following laws:
The contents of this page has been prepared with pro bono assistance from Russell Kennedy Lawyers.
This resource was published 28/08/2019. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.
As a member of the Power to Prevent Coalition, we strongly support the recommendations of Respect@Work, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s report into sexual harassment at work. We urge the Australian Government to make crucial changes to make Australian workplaces safer, healthier and more respectful for all.