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A handbook is key in ensuring that employees have a tangible resource they can review and reference if they do find themselves experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment. So, at least twice a year, hold a training session for your employees to review your handbook and keep it fresh in their minds. Encourage questions. Encourage conversation. Remind them of the complaint submission system.

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State in clear terms how seriously your organization takes sexual harassment. On the other side of the coin, train your supervisors on how to handle reports of sexual harassment. It may be wise to invite a professional to speak to your supervisors about the issue. It can be difficult to effectively oversee a harassment claim, especially without training or experience. The worst case scenario is a complaint that is dismissed because a supervisor feels unable to effectively handle the situation. This should go without saying, but when you receive a complaint, it is paramount that you take it extremely seriously.

If you want employees to trust your organization with these reports, they will have to see supervisors actively and discreetly working to resolve these complaints. Encourage your supervisors to walk around the workspace. A supervisor regularly out in the open with employees and not hiding in a personal office will be more likely to spot instances of sexual harassment in the work environment.

How to Handle Harassment Complaints in | i-Sight

Of course, not all forms of sexual harassment are easily spotted digital communications, for example but having your supervisors in the workspace will increase visibility — in both directions and allow your supervisors to get a stronger sense of the culture of the employees which might assist when handling a future occurrence of sexual harassment.

Examples of sexual harassment that may be relevant to the particular working environment. The policy should explain that sexual harassment is not behaviour which is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect.


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If the interaction is consensual, welcome and reciprocated it is not sexual harassment. The policy should make it clear that sexual harassment is against the law. Reference should be made to the federal, state or territory anti-discrimination laws that apply to the organisation. Staff need to know that legal action could be taken against them for sexual harassment and that they could also be exposing the company to liability.

Talk to an Employment Rights attorney.

The policy should state that sexual harassment is unlawful, even if perpetrated by a supervisor or manager, co-worker, contractor, service provider, client or customer. Although not all these situations would necessarily give rise to a complaint under the legislation, it makes good sense to provide an internal procedure for dealing with any sexual harassment which could affect the welfare of employees. The policy should also state that sexual harassment is not just unlawful during working hours or in the workplace itself and not only between co-workers.

The behaviour is unlawful in any work-related context, including conferences, work functions, office Christmas parties and business or field trips and includes interactions with clients and customers. The behaviour is also unlawful when it occurs away from the workplace but is a culmination or extension of events in the workplace. The policy should operate as a general warning to all employees of the consequences they can expect if they do not comply.

Depending on the severity of the case, consequences can include an apology, counselling, transfer, dismissal, demotion or other forms of disciplinary action. Employees should also be informed that immediate disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who victimises or retaliates against a person who has complained of sexual harassment. The policy should state that the organisation has a legal responsibility to prevent sexual harassment, otherwise it can be liable for the behaviour of its employees. This means that managers and supervisors have a responsibility to:.

Information on where individuals can get help, advice or make a complaint. The policy should tell employees where they can get help if they are sexually harassed. Where possible a number of different contact people of both sexes should be provided so that staff can approach someone they feel comfortable with. It is not appropriate to only give staff the option of approaching their line manager because there may be cases where the manager is the alleged harasser or is perceived to be closely associated with the harasser and therefore not impartial.

Dealing with Harassers

Where available, employers should offer referrals to employee assistance programs. Employers should also offer referrals to external services where employees can get legal advice and emotional support if they experience sexual harassment. A brief summary of the options available for dealing with sexual harassment. Employees should be advised of the different ways that sexual harassment can be addressed.

The way that complaints will be handled should be documented in the policy or in a separate complaints procedure. Staff can be referred to this if they require more information. Employees can also approach their union, the Commission or the relevant state or territory anti-discrimination agency for information and confidential advice.

Case example: Employees in remote locations Where employees are located in remote areas employers will need to be particularly careful that they have been made aware of sexual harassment policies and have access to any complaints procedures. In one case, the respondent company had distributed a sexual harassment policy to staff that included details of sexual harassment contact officers.

Know your rights when it comes to harassment on the job

However, the policy was not explained to staff in any way and it was difficult, in practice, to make a complaint. Both of the contact officers listed were based in the head office, while the alleged harassment took place in a regional office. A complaint would have to be made by telephone during office hours when the complainant did not have the privacy to make such a call. The company was found to be liable for the sexual harassment of one of their employees by another.

Employers need to know in advance how they will approach a complaint of sexual harassment in their workplace, and have procedures in place to deal with the harassment. It is recommended that employers take the following steps to deal with sexual harassment when it happens.

Employers can also encourage employees to assist in the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. For example, employees will often be aware of inappropriate behaviour before management. Staff can be encouraged to report early concerns about unwelcome behaviour before it becomes a serious sexual harassment complaint.

5 Top Tips - Dealing With Sexual Harassment at Work

Case example: Employer not vicariously liable The respondent was a lawyer who, in connection with his employment, sexually harassed a client of his employer. The employer, an Aboriginal corporation, was a small organisation and Federal Magistrate Rimmer accepted that it had made its expectations of employees in relation to harassment clear and so did not find the employer to be vicariously liable.

The employer discharged its liability by:. In addition, the employer had given a number of warnings to the respondent about his behaviour in relation to a previous complaint of sexual harassment against him. Case example: Employer vicariously liable A woman worked as a catering attendant for a food services company in a canteen at which employees of the respondent company regularly ate. One evening an employee of the company exposed his genitals to her and then grabbed her vagina before he walked away.

The woman lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against the company. In the action before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal the issue was whether the company could be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employee. The following strategies were suggested by the Tribunal to prevent sexual harassment in line with avoiding vicarious liability. Educational programmes might include the dissemination of literature and the provision of seminars. There might be re-education programmes to ensure that employees received disseminated materials and understood sexual harassment policies.

The Tribunal emphasised the need for employers to communicate policies to all employees to ensure that they become aware of what may constitute sexual harassment and that it is unlawful.