HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED
UNWELCOME TOUCHING, NO MATTER HOW MINOR?
SEXUALLY SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS?
BEING EXPOSED TO POSTERS OR SCREEN SAVERS OF A SEXUAL NATURE?
INAPPROPRIATE STARING OR LEERING?
RECEIVING SEXUALLY SUGGESTIVE EMAILS, TEXT MESSAGES OR GIFTS?
REPEATED REQUESTS TO GO OUT ON DATES OR REQUESTS FOR SEX?
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviour that is sexual in nature, that is intended to offend, humiliate or intimidate another person – or where a reasonable person would anticipate the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct.
Sexual harassment can be written, or verbal, or physical. It can happen in person, or online, or via text message.
Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment.
It doesn’t have to be repeated to be unlawful.
When it happens at work, or in an education setting such as a school or university, it may also amount to unlawful sex discrimination.
Examples of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment can take many forms, including:
- touching, grabbing or making other physical contact with you without your consent
- leering or staring at you
- making sexual gestures or suggestive body movements towards you
- sexual jokes or sexual comments around you or to you
- questioning you about your sex life
- asking you for sex or sexual favours – or persistent requests for you to go out on dates
- displaying rude and offensive material so that you or others can see it
- sending messages or images that are sexual in nature via text message or on social media
Sexual harassment can happen anywhere
Sexual harassment can happen anywhere, including the workplace, university or college.
It can also happen in the provision of goods and services and accommodation.
Sexual harassment is unlawful no matter where it happens.
Workplace sexual harassment
If sexual harassment happens in a workplace, an employer can be held legally responsible, unless they have taken reasonable steps to prevent it.
Importantly, “the workplace” includes the regular work environment (office, worksite, store etc), but it also includes anywhere in connection with work or anywhere arising out of the course of employment.
- Friday night drinks
- other after-work-hours functions – Christmas parties, for example
- work trips away – interstate conferences, for example
Workplace sexual harassment can happen in hotels, bars, nightclubs, function centres, cafes, in Ubers and taxis, on social media and visa text message.
Who can perpetrate sexual harassment?
Just about anyone can perpetrate sexual harassment.
For example, employers, work colleagues, students over the age of 16, room mates, and in some instances, staff or customers involved in the provision of goods and services.
There is both federal and state legislation that protects all Australians from sexual harassment.
The law differs in each state, but in general, it is unlawful for a person to sexually harass another person in the areas of employment, education, accommodation, and in the provision of goods and services.
Australian courts take sexual harassment extremely seriously.
Recent decisions have seen victims awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and perpetrators slapped with substantial penalties.
How sexual harassment can affect you
Sexual harassment can have a devastating effect on victims, and can lead to a range of physical and mental health issues.
If you are being sexually harassed, you might:
- feel stressed, anxious or depressed
- withdraw from social situations
- lose confidence and self-esteem
- have physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, backaches or sleep problems
- be less productive and unable to concentrate
Reach out for help
If you are experiencing sexual harassment, it is important that you have support, and that you talk to someone.
Please call a friend, or you can make an appointment to see your local doctor, or you can call one of the following services for support.
Lifeline 13 11 14
1800RESPECT 1800 737 732
QLife 1800 184 527
Beyond Blue 1300 223 636
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
We can help
Our team of Australian employment lawyers and industrial advocates has extensive experience fighting sexual harassment claims.
We also have a strong record negotiating substantial compensation for our clients.
We can represent you and advocate on your behalf in the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant commission or tribunal.
We can also advise you of your best options to ensure you get the outcome you are looking for.
Make no mistake, we will not give up fighting until we have achieved justice for you.
To connect with us, please follow us on
LAST UPDATED: March 2022