Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is against the law in Queensland. It is prohibited by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated, and where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances.

It has nothing to do with mutual attraction or friendship between people.

Sexual harassment does not have to be deliberate or repeated to be illegal.

Some sexual harassment, such as sexual assault, indecent exposure and stalking is also a criminal offence.

Sexual harassment can happen anywhere - while at work, in a shop or restaurant, at school or college, when looking for accommodation, or when dealing with tradespeople, businesses or state or local government officials.

An employer can be legally responsible for sexual harassment by their employees, unless all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent its occurrence.

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Sexual harassment examples

  • A cafĂ© operator makes unwanted sexual or suggestive comments, jokes or taunts to patrons.
  • An employer makes unwelcome requests for sex or asks questions about an employee's sex life.
  • Workmates send a co-worker emails with links to websites selling sex toys, even though the other worker has asked them to stop.

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Employer responsibilities

The employer, as well as the person or persons who engaged in the sexual harassment can be liable to pay compensation for loss or damage suffered by a person as the result of sexual harassment.

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Options for dealing with sexual harassment

An individual who has been sexually harassed may want to deal with the situation themself and tell the person or people involved that they object to what they are doing and ask them to stop. However this option may not be appropriate or the individual may not feel able to deal directly with the harasser themself.

If the incident happened at work, the individual who has been sexually harassed may seek assistance and further options from their manager, union representative, human resource personnel or equity contact officer.

If the incident happened at a school or educational institution, the individual may seek assistance from a teacher, guidance officer or other welfare staff.

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Information and enquiry service

Individuals, employers and business operators can access the Commission's statewide telephone information and enquiry service.

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Making a complaint

Make a complaint to the Commission on the Complaint Form about sexual harassment.

The complaint must be lodged with the Commission within 1 year of the sexual harassment happening.

The Commission's service is free.

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