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Sexual Harassment

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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. This includes unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours or any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that makes an individual feel offended, humiliated and/ or intimidated, where a reasonable person would expect this reaction in the circumstances. It does not need to involve repeated acts, although repeated acts often assist in demonstrating that conduct was unwelcome. It is your right to be free from sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a broad term than sexual assault, refereeing to a wider variety of inappropriate sexual behaviours. Examples of sexually harassing behaviour include:

  • unwelcome touching;
  • staring or leering;
  • suggestive comments or jokes;
  • sexually explicit pictures or posters;
  • unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
  • requests for sex;
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
  • insults or taunts based on sex;
  • sexually explicit physical contact; and
  • sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) makes sexual harassment unlawful in many areas of public life. These areas include employment, education, the provision of goods and services and the administration of Commonwealth laws or programs.

Employers have an obligation to manage the health and safety risks of workplace sexual harassment. The need for this has been highlighted through the recent Respect@Work Report.

The law concerning sexual harassment is very similar under state and Commonwealth law. The decisions as to which regime to commence a complaint under is made by reference to:

  • whether there is any other action being contemplated (if there is, a claim under Commonwealth law will generally be preferred as it can be brought in the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court)
  • whether the employee is a state public sector employee, such employees may not be entitled to bring claims under Commonwealth law.
  • The prohibition against sexual harassment is not limited by gender or sex. Both men and women can be sexually harassed by either a man or a woman. However, sexual harassment of women by men remains the most common. Some forms of sexual harassment may constitute a crime and should be reported to the police. This includes stalking and sexual assault in the workplace.

Notably, even if certain conduct is not considered sexual harassment, it may still be considered bullying or discrimination, depending on the acts involved and the situation.

Segelov Taylor Lawyers can help you to know your protections and claims under State discrimination law, state health and safety regulations, Commonwealth discrimination law and the Fair Work Act.

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, Segelov Taylor Lawyers can advise you on your legal options. Our principal, David Taylor, is an accredited employment and industrial law specialist and has 20 years of experience handling employment and harassment matters.

Please note that some forms of sexual harassment are criminal conduct, and police can get involved.

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