Your responsibilities in the workplace are simple. You are responsible for your own behaviour and therefore must not engage in any conduct that harms another person in the workplace.
If you are being sexually harassed at work
Your employer should provide you with information and support on how to respond if sexual harassment is directed at you, how to report it and what action can be expected following your report.
How you respond to sexual harassment may vary depending on the nature of the incident.
For example, you may choose to:
- tell your harasser that you object to their behaviour and ask that it stop; pointing out that the behaviour is inappropriate, makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They may not realise the effect their behaviour is having on you or others, and your feedback may give them the opportunity to change their actions.
- seek support from other workers, other people nearby or security personnel
- remove yourself from the situation, such as retreating to a safe location, asking the harasser to leave the work area or disconnecting the harasser from a phone call. As a worker you have the right to cease unsafe work.
- seek help from the police if the behaviour involves violence such as physical assault or the threat of physical assault (the threat could be through verbal or written means).
After experiencing sexual harassment, you should consider:
- seeking support (including psychological support) from a colleague, helpline, counselling service, legal service or employee representative
- reporting what happened to a supervisor, HSR, human resources area or a person designated by your organisation
- approaching the other person(s) involved to talk about your concerns after the incident has occurred, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so
- consider having a support person with you when you do this
- keeping a record of what happened, when and where it happened, who was involved and anything else you think may be important
- contacting SafeWork SA for further advice or lodging a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman or Australian Human Rights Commission (if your workplace has not taken action).
Some forms of sexual harassment are criminal acts, such as indecent exposure, stalking, sexual assault and obscene or threatening communications (e.g. phone calls, emails and posts on social media). Refer these matters to the police.
You may be worried that things will get worse if you report sexual harassment. However, you have a right to feel safe at work and your employer needs to take steps to make sure you are safe at work. If you are being victimised or disadvantaged because you have reported sexual harassment you can seek help from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
If you see or hear sexual harassment at work
If you see sexual harassment happening or hear about it, you may choose to:
- tell the harasser to stop and that their behaviour is unacceptable
- talk to the person experiencing harassment, ask them what support they need. You can also help them find information so they can decide what to do next
- report the sexual harassment to a supervisor, HSR, human resources area or a person designated by your organisation
- remember to consider any privacy concerns of the person on who’s behalf you are reporting
- talk to your employer or your representatives about raising the awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace.
You may need to adapt what action you take depending on the situation. The focus should always be on your safety and the safety of the person who is being harassed.
If you are accused of sexual harassment at work
Being accused of sexual harassment can be upsetting and come as a surprise, but it is important to be open to feedback from others, and if necessary, be prepared to change your behaviour.
If you are accused of sexual harassment, ask for details of the incident so you can consider your behaviour at the time. An accusation of sexual harassment should be taken seriously.
If the complaint follows an inappropriate joke or sexually inappropriate comment, don’t think that the complainant ‘can’t take a joke’, is ‘being too sensitive’ or ‘should go and work somewhere else’. It is your behaviour that is inappropriate, not theirs.
Your employer should have workplace policies or procedures in place about how the report will be dealt with. They should work with you through this process.
If you have been wrongly accused, consider what evidence you might be able to provide to support your case. You may wish to seek advice and support from a trusted person, HSR or employee assistance program if your workplace has one. You could also seek support from other organisations such as a helpline, counselling service, legal service or union.