Despite 24 years of legislation, sexual harassment remains a problem in our workplaces. Sexual harassment comes at a considerable cost, both to affected individuals and to business. It is important that employers take active steps to prevent sexual harassment and respond effectively when it occurs.
Definition of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is defined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) as ‘any unwelcome or unwanted sexual behaviour which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and /or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstance’. The act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy and potential pregnancy, family responsibilities and sexual harassment in certain areas of public life.
Types of behaviour considered to be either harassment or sexual harassment depending on the circumstances
material that is racist, sexist, sexually explicit, homophobic (anti-gay) and so on that is displayed in the workplace, circulated on paper or by email, or put on a computer or fax machine or on the internet, or in someone’s workspace or belongings; verbal abuse or comments that put down or stereotype people because of their sex, pregnancy, race, age, marital status, homosexuality, disability, transgender status or carers’ responsibilities; offensive jokes based on sex, pregnancy, race and so on;
offensive gestures based on sex, pregnancy, race and so on;
ignoring, isolating or segregating a person or group because of their sex, pregnancy, race and so on; staring or leering in a sexual manner;
sexual or physical contact, such as slapping, kissing touching or hugging; intrusive questions about sexual activity;
sexual assault (also a crime under the Crimes Act);
unwelcome wolf whistling;
repeated sexual invitations when the person invited has refused similar invitations before; and initiation ceremonies that involve unwelcome sexual, sexist,...