What should I do if I experience sexual harassment at work?

Published 13 Aug 2018

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be scary and confusing. You may be unsure about what constitutes harassment, and whether or not what you are experiencing would qualify. If you think you have been mistreated in this way at work, there are steps you can take to report the behaviour and ensure that it stops.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

Under the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984, there are protections in place for discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breast feeding, and family responsibilities. For example, if a woman in a male-dominant workplace receives comments every day from her male coworkers about her clothing, body, or anything related to her being a woman, it could constitute sexual harassment.

Additionally, sexual harassment could be related to any kind of unwanted attention, including touching, staring, humiliation, suggestive jokes, sexual photographs, date invitations, sex requests, or sexually explicit text messages. Anytime you or someone you know feels uncomfortable or thinks a line has been crossed in relation to these topics, consider reporting the behaviour right away.

What should you do next?

If you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment, it is important to speak up so that proper action may be taken. Do not think that just because a manager or higher-up in your workplace is exhibiting inappropriate behaviour, that you should have to deal with it. This kind of treatment is unacceptable in the workplace, and there are protections in place under the Sex Discrimination Act.

The person who sexually harassed is responsible for his or her actions, and has the sole responsibility to prove that the act was not discriminatory. However, sometimes an employer or agent can be held responsible for improper behaviour that took place at work. It is likely that if your workplace has a human resources department, they have a process in place for reports of sexual harassment. Start by finding out your workplace's procedures. If nothing is done about the behaviour from the employer, however, legal actions can be taken outside of the workplace, beginning with hiring an attorney.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment in the workplace, contact our team of experienced lawyers in Sydney at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. We offer free consultations and can answer any questions you may have.