RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE IN THE WORKPLACE
All employees have the right to feel safe at their workplace and this includes being protected from sexual harassment.
What is sexual harassment?
The law on sexual harassment is contained within the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act. Sexual harassment occurs when a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed.
To determine whether a person actions or conduct constitutes sexual harassment a range of factors can be taken into account, including:
- Sex and age of the person harassed;
- The harassed persons gender identity;
- The harassed persons marital or relationship status;
- The harassed persons race or religious beliefs;
- Any disability the harassed person has;
- The relationship between the harassed person and the person harassing them; and
- Any other circumstance that is considered relevant.
The role of your employer:
All employers have an obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment, whether you are a full-time, part-time or casual employee. They must do their best to protect you from sexual harassment by not only management and co-workers, but customers and clients.
This is most commonly done by:
- Having a clearly defined workplace policy on sexual harassment stating that is unacceptable;
- Having procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment; and
- Ensuring that those policies and procedures are followed.
What can I do if I am being sexually harassed?
If you are being sexually harassed at work then you should:
- Review your workplaces policy on sexual harassment;
- Report the matter to your manager; or
- Report the matter to your human resources department.
This can of course be difficult if you are employed at a small business without a human resources department, or if the harasser is your manager or the business owner. If your are unable to resolve your matter within your workplace then you may want to consider lodging a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales or the Australian Human Rights Commission.
You may also wish to consider seeking legal advice as to whether you can make a civil claim for damages as a result of the harassment you are subjected to, particularly if that harassment leaves you unable to continue to work.