Trigger warning sexual assault.
Employers must provide a work environment where employees can feel safe and secure. Your employer is required to have policies and procedures in place to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
In fact, employers that have not taken all reasonable steps to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace can be held legally responsible for acts of sexual harassment committed by employees. In this instance, a case can be taken against employers for “vicarious liability” where the Sex Discrimination Act holds employers liable.
As an employee, you should feel safe in the workplace and you should never be subjected to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can take many forms with some less obvious than others. Understanding your rights in the workplace will help you to identify acts of sexual harassment against yourself or others at work. If you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s important that you seek the advice of experienced sexual harassment lawyers in Melbourne. With the right legal assistance, you can ensure that you take the right steps toward getting the best outcome from your case.
Continue reading to learn what you should do if you have been sexually harassed in the workplace.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It is said that if a reasonable person would anticipate this behaviour could offend, humiliate or intimidate, it may be considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can be direct, indirect, verbal, non-verbal, and it is not always physical in nature.
Some examples of sexual harassment might include, but are not limited to, unwelcome touching, staring or leering, unwanted invitations to go out on dates, insults based on sex, unnecessary familiarity or closeness, intrusive personal questions, requests for sex, sexually explicit pictures or posters, physical contact of a sexual nature, or sending emails or other communications containing sexually explicit materials.
If a person feels offended, humiliated and/or intimidated by unwelcome sexual conduct, this can be described, as sexual harassment and the appropriate action should be taken.
Sexual Harassment Cases Need To Be Addressed
Over the last number of years, there have been some high-profile sexual harassment cases that have made it to major news outlets. Campaigns like #MeToo have helped to highlight the prevalence of sexual harassment, especially in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace is never acceptable and under no circumstances should employees have to deal with unwelcome conduct, advances or communications while they are at work.
While standing up to sexual harassment can be difficult, it is important that you take a stand. You should feel safe and secure in the workplace and never feel under threat. Addressing these issues properly will ensure a safer more comfortable working environment for all employees moving forward. What’s more, you can ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable for their actions, that they are punished accordingly and that you receive compensation.
Who Is Affected By Sexual Harassment?
The UN reported that 40-50% of women in EU countries and 30-40% of women in Asia-Pacific countries have experienced some form of sexual harassment. In the United States, a YouGov study highlighted that 30% of women have been sexually harassed. While women are undoubtedly the primary victims of sexual harassment, there are also studies to suggest that members of the LGBTQIA community and people of colour also experience more sexual harassment when at work. There is a smaller percentage of men who report being harassed by other men or women in the workplace.
Sexual harassment can affect anyone in the workplace and it’s important that you recognise instances of inappropriate sexual conduct so that it can be reported and the appropriate action can be taken.
Who Will Be Held Responsible?
If someone is sexually harassed in the workplace, the person who was harassing the individual will typically be held responsible. However, if the employer has failed to put policies and procedures in place to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, they can be held liable for “vicarious liability” under the Sex Discrimination Act. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, more than 80% of workplace sexual harassment cases go unreported. While the blame is often put on workplace culture and other factors, in order for someone to be held accountable, employees need to look out for one another and encourage these instances to be recorded.
What To Do If You Are Being Sexually Harassed In The Workplace
When it comes to getting the best result possible from a sexual harassment case, the records you keep can be invaluable. If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace you should keep records of each event but only if it is safe for you to do so. You can keep these records in a note on your phone, email them to your personal email account, or send yourself a message. Recording each instance of sexual harassment in this way will ensure that there is a timeline of the behaviour, recorded with digital timestamps. If anyone else witnesses you being sexually harassed, it’s important to make a note of who was present when the incident occurred. Be sure to document as much detail as possible so you have a complete record of the harassment.
You should also avoid deleting any communications you have received. In fact, you should print these out to ensure they are documented in case anything happens to the digital copies.
How To Report Sexual Harassment
While it might be difficult to come forward and report your case, it’s important to be brave. Speak to a trusted colleague, friend or family member about the unwanted attention or behaviour you have been subjected to. This will ensure that your report can be corroborated and that you have the support you need to report the incident. Remember that your employer must take all reasonable steps to ensure that they prevent sexual harassment in the workplace so it is in their best interest to take appropriate action following your report.
When you report the behaviour to your employer, be sure to submit the report in writing. Even if you have already reported the sexual harassment verbally, it’s important that there is a written record also. Tell your employer that you would like them to investigate further. They should begin an investigation into your allegations and take the appropriate steps to ensure that the behaviour stops immediately and that the person behaving inappropriately is reprimanded for their actions.
Seek Legal Advice From An Experienced Sexual Harassment Lawyer
If your employer fails to take action, you should seek the advice of an experienced sexual harassment lawyer. With the help of a reputable sexual harassment lawyer, you will have every chance of fighting your case successfully and getting the best outcome possible.
Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace should never suffer in silence. If you feel that you or someone in your workplace is being sexually harassed, it’s important that you speak up and report the issue as soon as possible so that the correct action can be taken.