Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which can be defined as an unwelcome sexual advance to another person in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

The behaviour has to be unwanted, so if there’s some consensual relationship or behaviour at work between colleagues, it is unlikely to be sexual harassment.

Intention is not relevant, in other words sexual harassment can occur regardless of whether a person intended to sexually harass another person or not. It can either be a single incident or a course of conduct (e.g. repeated jokes, touching or sexual innuendo) or a hostile work environment.

Employers are vicariously liable for harassment occurring in the workplace.

Employers should have a policy on sexual harassment including developing reasonable steps to ensure that it does not happen, to ensure that everyone in the workplace is trained in harassment and discrimination issues and making sure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.

Such a policy should also include the development of an easy-to-use complaints handling procedure and the appointment of a ‘complaints officer’.

Maguire & McInerney can assist in the development of workplace policies on sexual harassment and harassment generally and can also advise and assist both employers and/or employees where such issues become problematic.

Bullying

Workplace bullying is a major problem in many workplaces today. Workplace bullying can be defined as ‘the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee’. Workplace bullying can involve any or more of the following:-

Bullying is not only harassment and discrimination, but it can also be unlawful under Federal and State legislation.

Maguire & McInerney can assist in drafting and implementing policies against workplace bullying and are able to advise both employers and/or employees where such issues become problematic.