Sexual harassment in the workplace
Sexual harassment is against the law under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.
Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It can be physical, verbal or written.
Sexual harassment is not consensual interaction, flirtation or friendship. Sexual harassment is not behaviour that is mutually agreed upon.
Sexual harassment is covered in the workplace when it happens:
- at work
- at work-related events or where people are carrying out work-related functions
- between people sharing the same workplace
A single incident is enough to constitute sexual harassment – it doesn’t have to be repeated.
Men experience sexual harassment but it disproportionately affects women, especially in the workplace. (The Australian Human Rights Commission reported that 1 in 5 women experience sexual harassment in the workplace at some time.)
Responding to harassment
All incidents of sexual harassment – no matter how large or small or who is involved – require employers or managers to respond quickly and appropriately. Just because someone does not object to inappropriate behaviour in the workplace at the time, it does not mean that they are consenting to the behaviour.
Sexual harassment is against the law under the Equal Opportunity Act.
Some types of sexual harassment may also be offences under criminal law. These include indecent exposure, stalking, sexual assault and obscene or threatening communications, such as phone calls, letters, emails, text messages and posts on social networking sites.
Employers should consider reporting criminal offences to the police.
More information on sexual harassment and the law is available on our Sexual harassment page.