Sexual Harrassment

According to the Human Rights Commission, ‘Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual or consensual’.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) makes sexual harassment unlawful.

Despite being outlawed for over 30 years, sexual harassment remains a problem in Australia.

The results of the AHRC 2008 Sexual Harassment National Telephone Survey illustrated that 1 in 5 women in Australia experiences sexual harassment in the workplace at some time over their working life while there was only 1 in 20 men who reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment is unacceptable behaviour and should not be tolerated because it is an infringement of the fundamental human rights and dignity of another person to work in a physically and psychologically safe environment, to be treated fairly and with respect.

The SDA is committed to treating all complaints of sexual harassment seriously, sympathetically and will deal with them promptly, and confidentially.  

The SDA always ensures complaints of this nature are fully investigated by both the company and the Union separately, and in an impartial manner. If you are being sexually harassed, the SDA will act to ensure that steps are taken by the employer to prevent further Sexual Harassment occurring in that employer's workplace(s).

Our members deserve to be respected by us, by their employer, and by their workmates.

If you are unsure if you have experienced sexual harassment, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was it unwelcome?
  • Was it of a sexual nature?
  • Would a reasonable person have expected bit to be offensive, humiliating or intimidating?

If the answer is "yes" to these three questions, contact the SDA immediately, as the behaviour constitutes Sexual Harassment and is unlawful.

However, if the answer to these questions is anything other than a clear and absolutely certain "No" there are grounds for investigation of a Sexual Harassment complaint.

Examples of Sexual Harassment may include:

  • Suggestive remarks
  • Unwelcome sexual jokes in the presence of a person, or about a person.
  • Suggestive comments about a person's physical appearance or body.
  • Sexual propositions or continual requests for dates, especially after prior refusal. Suggestive behaviour, such as leering, ogling, and gestures or body movements of a sexual, intimidating nature.
  • Offensive photographs, posters, reading matter, t- shirts, sexual graffiti or objects, when placed so as to be seen by others.
  • Sexually explicit conversations
  • Tales of sexual performance
  • Name calling of a sexual nature, such as prostitute, prude, tart etc.

Sexual Harassment is not occasional. Compliments, which are to do with mutual attraction of friendship, which are of a consensual nature and are acceptable to both parties are not sexual harassment.

The harasser may be a manager, supervisor, or a co- worker, customer or supplier. Sexual Harassment can happen to anyone, male or female, and no matter what your sexual preference. It can be either individual or group behaviour. It can also include behaviour that has occurred outside working hours, such as at company social functions, which may have affected the complainant's work and environment.


The Effect of Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment can create an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment. It is distressing and can affect a person's mental and physical wellbeing. It is demeaning and threatens and undermines the individual concerned.

Sexual Harassment is an important health and safety issue.

It is important that you know what Sexual Harassment is and understand that it is unlawful. It is also important to know your own company policy regarding it and to know what to do, should you witness somebody else in the workplace being sexually harassed. 

If you become aware of sexual harassment occurring in your workplace, you should contact your Organiser immediately or phone the Union on (02) 4961 4694.

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