Sexual Harassment &
Bullying

Sexual Harassment & Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the workplace are illegal in Western Australia.

It is unlawful to treat a person less favourably on the basis of attributes such as a person’s gender; sexual orientation; race; disability or age.

If you feel you are being bullied, or have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and your employer is not responding appropriately to your complaints, you should seek legal advice from an expert Compensation Lawyer today.

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What is Bullying in the Workplace?

Bullying is when an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behave unreasonably towards a worker and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Bullying includes a range of behaviours such as:

  • yelling, screaming or offensive language;
  • excluding or isolating employees;
  • psychological harassment;
  • intimidation;
  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job;
  • giving employees impossible jobs;
  • deliberately changing work rosters to inconvenience particular employees;
  • undermining work performance by deliberately withholding information vital for effective work performance;
  • constant unconstructive criticism and/or nitpicking;
  • suppression of ideas;
  • overloading a person with work or allowing insufficient time for completion and criticising the employees work in relation to this.

What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Sexual harassment is when a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, an unwelcome request for sexual favours, or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to a person.

This occurs in circumstances where it is possible that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment can be subtle and implicit rather than explicit.

The following behaviours are examples of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  • unwelcome touching;
  • staring or leering;
  • suggestive comments or jokes;
  • sexually explicit pictures or posters;
  • unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
  • requests for sex;
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
  • insults or taunts based on sex;
  • sexually explicit physical contact;
  • sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.
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Legal Options for Sexual Harassment Claims in WA

Any employee in Western Australia may seek compensation for workplace sexual harassment under a range of workplace laws. This article aims to help provide some information about these laws and outline the different avenues available.

It is important to note this article does not provide legal advice. It is for information purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an experienced workplace lawyer.

Sexual harassment is against the law. There is a number of applicable laws in which an employee may find fair redress in WA. These include:

Sexual Harassment Applicable Workplace Laws:

Included below is more information about each of these workplace laws, and how they apply to sexual harassment claims. It is important you contact an experienced workplace lawyer, at the earliest opportunity, to receive accurate legal advice on a specific case.

WORKERS COMPENSATION AND INJURY MANAGEMENT ACT 1981 (WA)

The Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (WA) is applicable if the sexually harassing behaviour causes an injury or disease arising out of, or in the course of employment.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ACT 1984 (WA)

To make a claim for sexual harassment under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA) a worker must establish they were subjected to:

  • unwelcome sexual advances
  • request for sexual favours
  • unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature

The worker must also establish that they had reasonable grounds for believing that in rejecting the advances or conduct they would be disadvantaged in their employment, or in fact were disadvantaged. Sexual harassment does not need to be repeated or continuous, it can involve a single incident.

The Equal Opportunity Commission WA has stated that sexual harassment can take many forms including, but not limited to:

  • unwelcome physical touching, hugging or kissing;
  • staring or leering at someone or at parts of their body;
  • suggestive comments or jokes;
  • insults or taunts based on sex;
  • sexually explicit pictures, e-mails or text messages; and
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body.

THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT 1984 (OSH ACT)

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 an employer shall, where practicable, provide and maintain a working environment in which workers are not exposed to hazards. A hazard is defined as anything that may result in injury or harm to the health of a person.

  • abusive, insulting or offensive language;
  • behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades;
  • inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle, or their family;
  • teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes;
  • harmful or offensive initiation practices; and
  • physical assault or threats.

CRIMINAL CODE ACT COMPILATION ACT 1913

Sexual assault and sexual abuse under the Western Australian Criminal Code are criminal offences. In some cases sexual harassment may be sufficiently severe or pervasive that it will constitute a crime. For example, if the unwanted behaviour includes physical contact that is sexual in nature it would be sexual assault and is a criminal offence.

  • penetration of a person’s body part by the body part of another person’s body part;
  • of a body part by another body part (i.e., penal penetration of mouth, anus, vagina);
  • penetration of a body part by an object;
  • contact with genitalia, breast, buttocks, or other intimate body part; and
  • exposure of genitalia, breast, buttocks or other intimate body parts.

FAIR WORK ACT 2009 (CTH)

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) defines bullying as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

SEX DISCRIMINATION ACT 1984 (CTH)

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 makes sexual harassment against the law in the workplace. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 also covers you if you are sexually harassed when you are purchasing or providing goods or a service or when you are studying at a school, college or university.

 

The Australian Human Rights Commission provided the following examples of sexually harassing behaviour:

  • unwelcome touching;
  • staring or leering;
  • suggestive comments or jokes;
  • sexually explicit pictures or posters;
  • unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
  • requests for sex;
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
  • insults or taunts based on sex;
  • sexually explicit physical contact; and
  • sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.

Contact Workers’ Compensation Lawyers That Handle Workplace Harassment

If you are being sexually harassed or bullied at work and your employer is not responding appropriately to your complaints, you should seek legal advice.

Your employer may be liable to pay compensation under the West Australian workers’ compensation act and damages under the West Australian Equal Opportunities Act.

Perth City Legal provide accurate, practical legal advice in Western Australia. Contact us today, for a confidential, free initial consultation.

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