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New Sexual Harassment Hotline Set Up For Legal Profession

New sexual harassment hotline set up for legal profession

A new sexual harassment hotline has been set up for people who work in the legal profession.

The New South Wales Legal Services Commission (NSWLSC) launched the service this week.

It will allow workers in that state to make informal reports about sexual misconduct in legal workplaces.

Callers can remain anonymous if they wish.

New sexual harassment hotline

Speaking to Lawyer’s WeeklyCommissioner John McKenzie said reporting rates in the legal profession remain low. He therefore hopes the hotline will encourage workers to come forward.

“The people who are the subject of this harassment and bullying are junior and often young in years, but not necessarily terribly young,” he said.

“It’s all a relative thing about power.”

McKenzie said that many workers in the profession fear ruining their reputation and future career prospects if they speak out.

He said there is an enormous difference between the number of confidential reports and formal complaints as a result.

“And I, as a regulator, wanted to try and change this dynamic, so that I’m not waiting on simply formal complaints to come in, but I’m wanting to start to at least open avenues to people who have either suffered this behaviour or have witnessed it, to start disclosing what they’re comfortable in disclosing with us on the assurance that they will control what we do with the information.”

John McKenzie – NSW Legal Services Commissioner.  (Picture: Lawyer’s Weekly)

Hoping to change culture

The NSWLSC is also planning to launch a confidential online self-reporting service later in the year.

McKenzie said the focus of his agency is to help change the culture of sexual harassment currently plaguing the legal profession.

“Our responsibility is to take constructive action wherever we come upon instances that the law is not being followed… and that includes every lawyer and every non-lawyer who works in a law practice, to have a safe working environment.”

Legal profession MeToo moment coming

Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Sexual Harassment Claims welcomed the new initiatives.

“Anything that makes it easier for victims to report sexual harassment is a good thing,” he said.

“The legal profession has long had a problem with sexual harassment – and it is yet to have its own #MeToo moment – but that time is coming.”

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