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Sexual harassment in the workplace can cause the victim stress and interfere with the enjoyment of their work. It can even make them feel worried and unhappy out of work hours so it must be addressed, but first, it has to be recognised before you think about talking to lawyers. Not everyone understands that it can happen to a person even when the perpetrator is not in the same room. How?

Sexual harassment can be done through sending inappropriate email, text messages and/or images to the victim, or it can be done by phone. Here are other ways to recognise it.

  • It can be done by asking intrusive questions about a person’s life or comments on their physical appearance.
  • Inappropriate leering or staring at a person is considered sexual harassment.
  • Unwanted hugging or kissing.
  • Touching a person inappropriately or brushing up against them deliberately.
  • Making suggestive comments or jokes.

It is not only women who are victims of sexual harassment; men can harass other men and women can be perpetrators against people of either gender. The main thing to know is that the victim does not have to suffer in silence.

What to do

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you can simply tell the perpetrator their behaviour is distasteful and unwelcome. This may take a lot of courage and it is good to have support from your fellow workers who agree with you. However, sometimes it is enough to politely tell them you want it to stop.

If this doesn’t work, you should report the matter to their manager, or to your employer or even union representative. You can speak to the working women’s centre for legal advice, or call 1800 RESPECT. You can even talk to your solicitor for advice, or make a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

It is also important to know that it is illegal for the sufferer or their supporters to be disadvantaged in any way when they make a complaint. For instance, if you should not suddenly be moved to a job with fewer responsibilities – and less pay – or given a job that is not part of your duties according to your work contract.  And of course, it is illegal for your employer to fire you due to the complaint.

Studies show that reporting such conduct is very effective with almost 50% of such behaviour stopping after a report or complaint is made. So it is well-worth doing so, especially if you have a job and work conditions that you really like and it is just this one thing that is spoiling it all for you. Once you stand up to this kind of bullying you will feel empowered because you took it in hand and made a difference to your life.