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Everyone has a right to live and work free of sexual harassment

Everyone has a right to live and work and go about their daily lives without being subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour.

Such behaviour can make a person’s life miserable, whether it involves physical contact, or comments or innuendo, or text messages, or persistent invitations to go out on dates.

This sort of conduct is called sexual harassment, and it’s against the law.

Sexual harassment mainly affects women, but men can be victims too.

Sexual harassment can have a devastating effect, and can lead to many mental and physical health problems, including anxiety and depression, and in severe cases, post traumatic stress disorder.

Despite strict laws that protect people from sexual harassment, many victims never make a formal complaint because they fear for their job and career, or they don’t think that they will be believed or taken seriously.

Victims of sexual harassment should know that there is help available, and they don’t have to put up with inappropriate and unlawful conduct.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted and uninvited behaviour that is sexual in nature, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation, or friendship which is mutual or consensual.

Sexual harassment does not need to be repeated or continuing for it to be unlawful.

The law

There is both federal and state legislation that protects all Australians from sexual harassment.

The law differs slightly from state to state, but in general terms, it is unlawful for a person to sexually harass another person in the areas of employment, education, accommodation, and in the provision of goods and services.

Who can be guilty of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment can be committed by just about anyone, including employers and work colleagues, students over the age of 16, room mates, and in some instances, customers or staff involved in the delivery of goods and services. 

So that includes staff in cafes and restaurants, or real estate agents and motel and hotel operators and even tradespeople who might come to your house to perform work.

What are some examples of sexual harassment?

  • staring or leering
  • unwelcome touching
  • suggestive comments or jokes
  • insults or taunts of a sexual nature
  • intrusive questions about your private life
  • displaying posters or screen savers of a sexual nature
  • sending sexually explicit emails or text messages or inappropriate advances on social media
  • repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates or requests for sex

Where can sexual harassment take place?

Sexual harassment can happen in the workplace – so that means in the office, or the work site – but importantly, it can also happen anywhere that is work related – so that means hotels, bars, conference and function centres, taxis, and restaurants.

It can also happen via text message and on social media.

It can also happen in:

  • classrooms or training facilities
  • shops, restaurants, or anywhere that goods and services are provided (sexual harassment can be perpetrated by customers towards staff or by staff towards customers)
  • accommodation, including shared boarding houses, caravan parks, motels and hotels

How we can help

You don’t have to put up with sexual harassment.

Our team of Australian employment lawyers and industrial advocates at Discrimination Claims are specialists in fighting sexual harassment claims.

If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may be entitled to compensation, or an apology, among other remedies.

We can represent you in the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant court or tribunal.

We can advise you of your best options moving forward, to ensure you get the outcome you are looking for.

Make no mistake, we will not give up fighting until we have achieved justice for you.

IMPORTANT:  If you have been dismissed from employment because you complained about sexual harassment, you only have 21 days from the date of your dismissal to lodge a claim, so don’t delay!

Recent stories about sexual harassment

>>  Brisbane surgeon suspended over sexual harassment allegations

>>  How sexual harassment affects health and well being

>>  Hertz in court over sexual harassment

>>  Flight attendants report shocking sexual harassment

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LAST UPDATED: January 2023

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