Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted and unwelcome sexual behaviour that makes a person feel intimidated, offended or humiliated. Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination. In Australia, harassment is dealt with under Australian anti-discrimination laws.
What amounts to sexual harassment?
Firstly, it’s important to note that mutual and consensual interaction, flirtation or friendship is not sexual harassment. With that in mind, sexual harassment may be:
- Suggestive comments or jokes and sexual insults or taunts.
- Questions or statements about your private life that are intrusive.
- Staring or ogling.
- Sending sexually explicit messages and accessing sexually explicit websites.
- Inappropriate advances on social media.
- Displaying any media of a sexual nature (pictures, magazines or screensavers).
- Repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates and requests for sex.
- Unwelcome touching or deliberately brushing / pushing up against you.
- Behaviour that could be considered criminal such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications.
Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act in a wide number of areas but specifically in the workplace.
Sexual harassment committed in the workplace isn’t limited to the employer against the employee. It can be committed by anyone you have a working relationship or interaction with. This relationship or interaction could be from an employer, co-worker or contractor.
It is important for employers to be active participants in raising awareness of sexual harassment and to have policies and procedures in place to deal with occurrences. Policies and procedures should be displayed and available for all employees.
Employees should be able to identify sexual harassment and know what to do in the workplace if it occurs.
What can you do?
There are a number of things that you can do if you are being sexually harassed:
- Discuss the matter with your harasser. Tell them it is unacceptable and not welcome.
- Talk with your supervisor, a colleague, HR representative or union representative.
- Lodge a formal complaint through your company processes.
- Speak with a lawyer or contact the Australian Human Rights Commission to make a complaint.