Workplace Sexual Harassment


How do you deal with a sexual harassment claim?


Any type of harassment can have serious consequences within a workplace. Not only does it affect the employee’s involved, it can cause major reputational issues as well. All claims of harassment should be dealt with immediately, for the safety of all employees and for the future of the organisation.


Harassment can be defined as any conduct that is unwanted by the recipient, causes offence, humiliation, or distress, and is considered objectionable. Sexual harassment is similar, being unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, which can be reasonably regarded as offensive, or make the recipient feel disadvantaged if they object to it. Both types of behaviour need to be managed appropriately, to ensure that there is a healthy culture of respect and trust within the workplace.


In the case H v the Workers’ Compensation Regulator [2015] a female security guard was made the subject of demeaning comments by a male colleague. After reporting the harassment to her manager, the harassment continued, ending with her being placed on sick leave by her GP. After losing the original workers compensation case, she appealed the decision. The judge found that although the employer did take action after her original claim, the female guard was still further ‘attacked’ and there was no further intervention. The judge stated that “Management should have taken steps to restore respect in the workplace and training should have been implemented to address the negative culture.”


This case clearly illustrates the importance of having clear and firm guidelines in relation to any kind of harassment. Employers have the responsibility of ensuring that all employees can work in a safe environment and that they feel happy and respected in their workplace. By having a clear and concise Prevention of Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying policy in place, an employer can make sure that all employees have strong guidelines to follow to ensure their behaviour is appropriate for the organisation.


For more information on harassment in the workplace and how to prevent it, visit us at or call (08) 9316 9896.


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