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Sexual harassment is conduct of a sexual nature that makes you feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, that a reasonable person would anticipate would make you feel that way.
Sexual harassment includes conduct like:
Your workplace should protect you from sexual harassment at work. This includes from co-workers, customers or clients. When starting a job, you should ask your employer about their workplace harassment policies. If you foresee any risks, for example, you are worried about being rostered on alone in a shop, discuss with your employer what can be done to ensure your safety at all times.
If you tell your employer that you have been sexually harassed, or they should have known that it was happening, they must stop the harassment and prevent it happening again. They are also vicariously responsible for the conduct of their staff (that is, legally responsible for their behaviour) unless they show that they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent sexual harassment and to properly deal with any complaints.
If you complain about sexual harassment, and then you have your shifts cut, or you are demoted or fired, you should call us for advice. You have a right to safe workplace and if you suffer a loss for making a complaint about that right, you could make a General Protections claim in the Fair Work Commission. Note that if you are fired, there are only 21 days from the end of your employment to make this claim.
You can also make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission and Australian Human Rights Commission about the sexual harassment. There time limits of 12 months and 6 months respectively for these claims.
If you have been sexually harassed at work, firstly make sure you are safe and have support, and call us or your Union for legal advice about your individual situation.
Here are some common situations. Have a read and think about what you would do in these situations.
Even if a workplace has a culture of jokes and pranks, Mark’s jokes and comments are sexual harassment. Unwelcome touching, such as a shoulder rub, is also sexual harassment.
If Olivia feels too anxious or unwell to attend work, she should seek help from her doctor and with her doctor’s support, consider a worker’s compensation claim.
Olivia could see if any of her co-workers feel the same way about Mark’s behaviour and complain as a team. Olivia could arrange a meeting with Mark about his behaviour, with a support person, or could write an email to him outlining her concerns. If the workplace has a policy on workplace harassment, she should refer to it. Olivia has the right to a workplace free of sexual harassment and her concerns should be taken seriously. Once the workplace is notified of her complaint, they should take steps to prevent it happening again, even if the boss is the culprit.
Olivia could also lodge a claim in the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission about the sexual harassment.
It is not okay that Anika feels unsafe at work. She has the right to a safe workplace. Anika should report the customer’s behaviour to her boss. If her boss knows about the harassment, he must act to stop it and prevent it from happening again. It doesn’t matter if the customer is a regular, a big spender or a friend of the boss.
Anika should put her complaint to her boss in writing, and keep a diary of when the customer harasses her. If at any time, Anika feels physically unsafe, she should seek immediate help. If Anika’s boss fails to do anything to stop the harassment, she could also lodge a complaint in the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Even though this was a one-off event, it is still harassment. If Trina feels comfortable to do so, she could approach her co-worker and tell him that his behaviour made her feel uncomfortable.
If Trina doesn’t want to speak to her co-worker personally, she could approach her manager or HR department to report the behaviour.
If Trina chooses not to do anything at this stage, she should make a note of the time and date of the harassment and keep a diary if anything further happens, in case she wishes to take action in the future.
Even if you have had a previous relationship with someone at work, you do not have to put up with sexual harassment from that person. You may decide to try to speak to the person harassing you and explain that it is not appropriate in the workplace. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, or if they won’t stop, you should report the harassment to your boss. Your boss should take your complaint seriously and take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Paige could make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission about the harassment. If her boss cuts her shifts instead of addressing Tom’s behaviour, she could make a General Protections claim in the Fair Work Commission.
If you have been sexually harassed at work, firstly make sure you are safe and have support, and call us or your Union for legal advice about your situation.
How can the Working Women’s Centre Help?
Where else can I go for help?
Other organisations that may be able to help include your union, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunity Commission.
If you are not already a member of a union, ring SA Unions on (08) 8279 2222 to find out which union to join.
Australian Human Rights Commission: Phone: 1300 369 711 Web: www.humanrights.gov.au
Equal Opportunity Commission: Phone: (08) 8207 1977 Web: www.eoc.sa.gov.au
Making a Sexual Harassment complaint is a serious matter.
Other service providers
If your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger, phone 000 (triple zero).