An employer can be held vicariously liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Implement a sexual harassment policy consistent with discrimination legislation to avoid legal ramifications.
The Sex Discrimination Act is a Commonwealth statute that applies to all of Australia. The Act defines sexual harassment as 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.
Examples of sexual harassment include:
- Staring or leering
- Unwelcome touching
- Intrusive questions or statements about one’s personal life
- Requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates
- Inappropriate advances on social networking sites
What you can do
Employers should take reasonable steps by drafting a sexual harassment policy. The courts will judge the policy’s efficacy should an employee bring a claim against you.
The policy should contain:
- Adequate details defining sexual harassment
- Be endorsed by the employer through workplace education and training on procedures
- Outline the disciplinary courses of action should a breach occur