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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a serious problem and it is against the law. You can take action if you have been sexually harassed at work. This Fact Sheet looks at what you can do to stop the harassment and make a complaint.

What is sexual harassment at work?

A person is sexually harassed at work if, while at work, one or more individuals:

  • makes an unwanted sexual advance or unwelcome request for sexual favours, or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards the person; AND
  • this conduct occurs in circumstances where a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility of the person harassed being offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Conduct does not have to be repeated to constitute sexual harassment. Conduct that occurs outside of work hours but that is still connected to the workplace, for example, conduct that occurs at a work function, may still constitute sexual harassment ‘at work’.

Some examples of sexual harassment include:

  • brushing up against someone, touching, fondling or hugging;
  • unwanted requests for sex;
  • sexual messages in emails, text messages or on social media (even if this occurs outside of work hours);
  • sexually suggestive comments or jokes; and
  • repeated requests to go on a date.

What can you do?

If you think that you are being sexually harassed at work, or you have been sexually assaulted, you don’t have to put up with it. The steps you take will depend on your workplace and how comfortable you feel speaking up.

It is a good idea to keep a record of situations when you feel sexually harassed. Consider keeping a diary, include specific details such as dates, times, witnesses, how you were sexually harassed and how this made you feel.

It is important to get the help that you need, so see a doctor if you feel depressed, anxious or if you have been sexually assaulted or physically injured. If you feel in danger:

  1. You do not have to attend an unsafe workplace. If you feel like you are unsafe at work due to sexual harassment, make sure you tell your employer the reason you are not attending work and make it clear that you have not abandoned your employment. You should also request that appropriate management action be taken by the employer.
  2. Apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an Intervention Order (seek legal advice). An Intervention Order is an order made by the court to protect you from the harasser. The harasser will have to follow the conditions set out in the order.
  3. Make a report to the police. Some harassing behaviour is criminal such as sexual assault, indecent exposure and stalking and may be investigated by the police.

Legal options include:

  1. Apply to the Fair Work Commission
  2. Submit a General Protections Dispute claim to the Fair Work Commission
  3. Make a complaint to your state’s anti-discrimination commission
  4. Make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission
  5. Report your employer to the Fair Work Ombudsman

For more information on the above, we recommend you download the full Fact Sheet.

For further support

Call our Telephone Information Service on Melbourne Metro (03) 9662 1933 or Regional Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania on 1800 331 617.

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