Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favours or any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, where a reasonable person in the same situation would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
It is a significant and pervasive issue, especially in the workplace. In fact, the Australia Human Rights Commission reported that of all of the complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act they received in 2009-2010, sexual harassment was the most common.
The following can be examples of sexual harassment, but by no means provides an exhaustive list:-
- Unnecessary familiarity;
- Unwelcome touching;
- Staring and leering;
- Intrusive questions or statements about your private life;
- Sending sexually explicit messages.
Importantly, whilst sexual harassment in and of itself is not a criminal offence in New South Wales, many of the actions that contribute to establishing sexual harassment could constitute a criminal offence. Assault, indecent assault and using a carriage service to menace, harass, or offend are all criminal offences in NSW which could easily be charged on the above conduct. Please see the dedicated pages on these offences for further information.
When sexual harassment is alleged in a workplace environment it is common for a manager and/or a Human Resources supervisor to first conduct an interview about the reported behaviour.
If you have been contacted by a supervisor or HR in relation to allegations of sexual harassment, you should consider seeking legal advice as soon as possible from an experienced criminal solicitor. You should be aware of the fact that the matter may be referred to the Police at a later stage for a criminal investigation. In that situation, if an interview has taken place, logs of that may become evidence and those present in the interview may because witnesses.
It is pertinent that you receive competent legal advice in relation in relation to being investigated for and charged with a criminal offence.
The information on this page was correct at the date of publication – 13 March 2015.