Sexual harassment refers to any conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, and where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances. This may include:
- uninvited physical contact or gestures
- unwelcome requests for sex
- sexual comments, jokes or innuendo
- intrusive questions or insinuations about a person’s private life
- displays of offensive or pornographic material such as posters, pinups, cartoons, graffiti or calendars
- sex-based insults or taunts
- unwanted invitations
- offensive communications (letters, phone calls, faxes, email messages etc).
Sexual harassment is a serious offence within the workplace. You are not allowed to make any kind of sexual implications. If the wrong attitude is displayed within the workplace towards the opposite sex or even the same sex, offenders run the risk of court action, heavy penalties or both.
A group of workers enjoy having pictures of naked women displayed around the workshop. Julie (a female) is employed within the workshop and finds the pictures obscene and is offended by them. She approaches the manager who instructs the male workers to take the pictures down.
The male workers are not happy and harass the female worker by making sexual remarks about her. She approaches the manager again, but he says there is nothing more that he can do as he has removed the pictures. Julie has had enough and decides to sue her co-workers for sexual harassment.
What would you do if you were the manager in this situation?
Have you ever been in a situation like this? How would you respond?
Sexual harassment can come in different forms. Make sure you have a clear understanding of these issues and give your workers clear directions so that situations don't get out of hand. More information is available on the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission (see the 'References' section).
You may now like to try the discussion starter 'Sexual harrassment'.