Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or any other unwelcome sexual conduct in circumstances in which the person who is exposed to the conduct reasonably feels offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Anyone can experience sexual harassment. It does not matter if the person harassing you is the same gender as you, it is still unlawful.
It also does not have to happen repeatedly or continuously to be sexual harassment, a single event can constitute sexual harassment under the Discrimination Act, but it must be unwanted.

A range of behaviour is covered including verbal or written comments of a sexual nature (either to, or in the presence of another person) such as sexual jokes, questions about a person’s intimate life, the display of sexually explicit images, unwanted touching or kissing, stalking, and sexual assault can constitute sexual harassment under the Discrimination Act. Sexual harassment is covered by the Discrimination Act where it happens in employment, in the provision of goods and services and in access to premises, in the provision of accommodation, in education and in club membership.

If you participate in some jokes, flirtation or sexual behaviour yourself, you are still entitled to draw the line when you feel uncomfortable and it can still be sexual harassment if you feel coerced or pressured in to tolerating or participating in these types of behaviours.

Examples of sexual harassment

I work behind a bar, and every night I have customers making sexual comments to me. I told my boss that I am uncomfortable with this but he said it was my job to make myself attractive and agreeable to customers.

I have stopped going to lectures because there is a girl who always sits near me and tries to touch me. She also sends me sexual messages by text and on messenger, even though I have asked her to stop.

One of my co-workers is sending me messages making sexist jokes and asking me about my sex life on works instant messenger system. I have asked him to stop but cant block him as we need messenger to communicate about client issues. I haven’t complained as I do not want any trouble at work as he has been there longer than me and is good friends with our team supervisor.

When I applied for a job on a construction site, the man interviewing me said I could have the job if I would be able to handle all the men on the site looking at my breasts while I worked.

A young woman is on a student visa and works part time as a cleaner while studying. Her supervisor has told her if she does not have sex with him he will report her to immigration because she works more hours than she is supposed to on her visa conditions because she struggles to pay university fees, rent and have enough money for food and to live on.

Are there any exceptions?

The behaviour must be unwelcome, otherwise it is not unlawful. Mutual attraction, flirtation or relationships that you consent to are not sexual harassment.

Complaint outcomes

A woman lodged a complaint that she was subject to sex and race discrimination from her employer. She alleged that on separate occasions she was subject to sexual harassment by her employer, including unwanted sexual advances. The woman also alleged racial vilification due to the extent and public nature of the comments that were alleged to have been made to her. The woman said she experienced this throughout her period of employment but it got significantly worse after she rejected the advances of her employer. The matter resolved through conciliation with a payment of financial compensation of $40,000, a statement of service and training for all staff.

To find out more or make a complaint.

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To make a complaint please complete our complaint form.