What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours, or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

To be sexual harassment, the conduct must be:

  • unwelcome;
  • of a sexual nature; and
  • the kind of behaviour that a reasonable person would anticipate, the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Examples Of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment may take various forms, including:

  • repeated and unwelcome requests for sexual favours and threats of adverse employment action
  • inappropriate physical contact (e.g. hugging or kissing) or unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • repeated and unwelcome flirting, compliments or touching
  • inappropriate advances on social networking sites
  • offensive comments or compliments on physical appearance, dress or private life
  • lewd jokes, gestures, staring or leering
  • public display of pornography in the workplace, including on the internet by email or on mobile phones
  • unsolicited physical contact, such as patting or pinching
  • nudity
  • sexual violence, indecent or sexual assault and stalking.

Sexual Harassment and The Law

Sexual harassment is a serious issue and will not be tolerated by organisations that have a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace culture. If an employee, contractor or volunteer are found to have engaged in sexual harassment, it may be treated as misconduct, and in very serious cases, sexual harassment can be considered a criminal offence. Laws protect the rights of individuals to ensure a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace. Behaviour that is sexual harassment will lead to potential disciplinary action being taken, up to and including termination of employment. These laws apply to all workplaces in Australia, regardless of their size. They protect employees, contractors, volunteers, customers, and visitors.

The Duty of a Supervisor and Manager to Eliminate Sexual Harassment in The Workplace

It is the responsibility of every person to act professionally and create a workplace that does not tolerate sexual harassment.

Employers will be vicariously liable for acts of sexual harassment carried out by their workers or agents unless they can show that they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent the conduct from occurring and have responded appropriately to resolve incidents of sexual harassment.

As a supervisor or manager, you also have a duty to take reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sexual harassment from occurring as far as possible. This is a requirement by law and will enable a workplace that is safe, inclusive and respectful.

Like To Learn More?

To find out more about the responsibilities of a supervisor and manager when it comes to preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace, please refer to the Sentrient series of online compliance courses for supervisors and managers.

To Get a Free Demonstration of The Supervisors and Managers Suite of Online Compliance Courses, please get in touch with Us Today!

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Course