A new survey by the International Bar Association has found more than a third of Australian lawyers have experienced workplace sexual harassment.
The survey of 7000 lawyers around the world found that 25 percent had been sexually harassed at work.
Of the 1000 lawyers who responded to the survey in Australia, 37 percent had experienced sexual harassment.
Even more concerning, the harassment was not reported by 77 percent of victims.
Eighty percent said this was because they believed perpetrators would never punished, and 31 percent said it was because they expected that their employer’s response would be inadequate.
The industry response
The Law Society of New South Wales Chief Executive, Michael Tidball, told The Guardian that under industry conduct rules, sexual harassment could constitute professional misconduct and lead to a lawyer being disbarred.
He said anyone who experiences sexual harassment can report perpetrators to the Law Society’s professional standards department.
“We are telling the whole profession that this must be owned by the leaders of the profession,” he said.
“We must have the systems, the protocol and a culture of absolute equality.
“For the lawyers in the firm, they need to be looking out for their colleagues.”
Young lawyers afraid to make complaints
As Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims, Miles Heffernan has represented hundreds of victims of sexual harassment, and negotiated significant compensation payouts for many.
“It’s been an open secret for a long time now that sexual harassment is common in the legal profession, and it’s yet to have it’s own ‘MeToo’ moment,” he said.
“The legal profession is relatively small in Australia, and young lawyers are afraid if they make a complaint, it will ruin their career – it’s unfortunately why many people who are subjected to this sort of conduct never come forward.
“Considering this conduct is unlawful, it is outrageous that the numbers are still so high – it just goes to show we’ve got more work to do to reduce and hopefully eliminate this scourge in Australian workplaces.”
If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may be entitled to compensation.
Please call our team at Discrimination Claims today on 1300 853 837.
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