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Terminology explained: what is sexual harassment?

Bullying & HarassmentAugust 30, 2016

Terminology explained: what is sexual harassment? (Last Updated On: August 30, 2016)

Many people assume they would recognise sexual harassment immediately if they witnessed it in their workplace. However, it may not be as overt as you may think.

Sexual harassment is any unwelcomed conduct or advancement of a sexual nature. This is not limited to physical touching as it can also include any unwelcomed verbal or physical behaviour that causes a person to feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • sexually suggestive comments or innuendos
  • intrusive personal questions
  • inappropriate staring or suggestive gestures
  • unwelcomed hugging, kissing, or other contact
  • sharing inappropriate images or videos, such as pornography
  • displaying lewd posters in the workplace
  • offensive comments based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender

Sexual harassment may be a one-off occurrence, repeated, direct or indirect and is not limited to co-workers. Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, sexual harassment applies to anyone in the workplace including an employee, a contractor, a prospective employee or a volunteer.

Sexual harassment may also take place outside business hours, for example at work related events or between colleagues outside of work.

In a recent case study a women was sexually harassed at a work event when a partner from the company asked her how far up her body her tights went, and repeatedly told her she was beautiful. The company was ordered to pay the woman $4,650 in compensation for wages lost and reimbursement of counselling fees.

Sexual harassment can have a serious and damaging effect on a business. As an employer it is your responsibility to have an appropriate sexual harassment policy in place, to make sure your staff are trained on how to identify and react to sexual harassment, have an internal procedure for dealing with harassment complaints and ensure you take appropriate action if sexual harassment occurs.

Employsure is Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist and can assist in implementing sexual harassment policies and procedures into your workplace. Call us today on 1300 651 415.

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