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Sexual Harassment and Workplace Bullying

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Sexual Harassment and Workplace Bullying

A happy and productive workplace depends upon a range of personalities being able to get along. It also depends on everyone doing the right thing and treating their colleagues with respect.

But unfortunately, some work environments can be breeding grounds for unwanted and threatening behaviours. Why? Because sometimes there’s a “bad apple” – a person or group of people who will take advantage to put themselves in a powerful position over their colleagues.

Such behaviours can often take the form of sexual harassment or bullying.

They are particularly an issue in workplaces because victims have to turn up to work day after day, shift after shift, enduring the behaviour and often being too scared or intimidated to make a complaint. This can often isolate the victim, making the impact of the behaviour all the more severe.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. Its effect is to offend, intimidate or humiliate the victim.  A few examples include:

  • Unwelcome physical contact.
  • Comments or jokes that are suggestive or of a sexual nature.
  • Unwanted requests to go out on dates or for sex.
  • Pornography in the workplace.
  • Sexually explicit emails or text messages between colleagues.

It’s important to remember that sexual harassment is wrong and it’s illegal. It not only covers workplace situations but also when purchasing or providing goods or services or in the course of study.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying can include many behaviours but generally speaking, it is defined as:

  • Repeated negative behaviour.
  • Towards an individual or group.
  • Putting at risk their health and safety in the workplace.

It can take place between any co-workers, regardless of seniority. It is not just limited to employees. Contractors, volunteers, labour hire workers, trainees and anyone else in the workplace can be bullied.

Workplace bullying can impact in many ways. Workers can be injured because of bullying and they can suffer psychological harm. It can also impact the bottom line of a business if productivity is affected due to increased absenteeism or workers compensation claims for injury or stress.

There is a growing recognition in Australia that workplace bullying needs to be more effectively addressed by organisations because of the enormous potential for harm to the individual and the organisation.

What can be done?

If you are being harassed or bullied, there are various avenues open to you. Whatever you decide to do, it is important that you get legal advice as soon as possible after the problem arises.

Employment or human rights lawyers can assist you in various ways. For example, you may wish to:

  • Keep your lawyer in the background to provide advice as necessary to help you try and resolve the issue.
  • Assist you to make a complaint to your workplace and to represent you to your employer, if necessary.
  • If you decide to leave the workplace, assist you to negotiate your departure with your employer.
  • Assist you to make a complaint for sexual harassment to the Human Rights Commission or Equal Opportunity Commission.
  • Assist you to apply for a Stop Bullying Order if you wish to stay in your workplace.
  • Assess whether you are entitled to workers compensation and assist you in making a claim.
  • Assist you to decide whether to make a complaint to police.

Get the right lawyer

When dealing with these issues, it’s important to get the right lawyer  from the start. Because your issue is likely to cross legal areas, for example you may be experiencing sexual harassment but you also need to make a claim for workers compensation, the best lawyer for you will be someone who is well-versed in both employment or human rights law and workers compensation.

Websters Lawyers has an outstanding team of lawyers practising across all major legal areas. Whatever your need, we can help.

Even if you are uncertain about making a claim, what is involved or whether it’s worthwhile, speaking to a lawyer can really help you to clarify your thoughts. Contact us today to arrange a free, no obligation consultation. At that meeting we will be able to explain to you the process involved and the best approach.

When you choose a lawyer you need to absolutely sure that not only to they have the knowledge and skills you require, but also that they will provide the level of service you expect.

For further information, read our Discrimination, Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Brochure.

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