ADVICE: Have you been sexually harassed at work?

Every employee has a fundamental right to work in a safe environment, both physically and mentally, and to be treated fairly and with respect.

Sexual harassment is unacceptable behaviour and a breach of those fundamental rights. Sexual harassment can create an intimidating, hostile, offensive work environment, which can affect a person’s mental and physical well being. It is an important health and safety issue.

Sexual harassment is a serious form of unlawful sex discrimination. It is demeaning and threatens and undermines the individual concerned.

Your employer should have clear company policies about sexual harassment that state what behaviour is unacceptable and what the consequences are for breaches of policy, and procedures for dealing with complaints.

All supervisors and staff members should be trained about acceptable work practices including the consequences of sexual harassment.

Every employer has a legal duty to protect their employees from sexual harassment and provide a safe workplace.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that a reasonable person would anticipate would make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Grounds for sexual harassment can exist whether the harassment was intended or unintended.

Sexual harassment can take many forms, including:

  • Sexually suggestive remarks or jokes
  • Sexually explicit conversations or intrusive questions about a person’s private life
  • Displaying or sharing sexually explicit material such as posters, graffiti, magazines, screen savers, emails and texts
  • Sexual propositions or repeated unwanted requests to go out on a date, in person or on social networking sites.

Sexual harassment may also constitute a criminal offence, including:

  • Obscene communications (telephone calls, email, SMS/text messaging, letters etc…)
  • Unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • Touching a person where the touching is sexual in nature, which is also sexual assault.
  • Stalking and indecent exposure


NOTE:  Sexual Harassment can be perpetrated by anyone in your workplace including a customer, manager, co-worker or contractor.  Your employer has a legal obligation to protect you from sexual harassment in the workplace from any source.


  • Sexual harassment can be stopped.
  • If you feel uncomfortable about a co-worker’s behaviour, tell them that the behaviour is unwelcome.
  • If you are not comfortable to confront the harasser, or if the behaviour continues and/or is of a criminal nature, you should contact the SDA immediately.
  • Make a detailed record of what happened (place, date, time, person); what was said or done and whether there were any witnesses.
  • Under the law, you are protected from being victimised or losing your job if you make a complaint of sexual harassment, or if you appear as a witness for a co-worker who is making a complaint.


The SDA is totally committed to eliminating sexual harassment from our members’ workplaces. The SDA undertakes to treat all complaints seriously and sympathetically, and to deal with them promptly and confidentially.  The SDA is here to support you if you have been sexually harassed at work.

If you need advice or support, please contact your SDA Branch.

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