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Sexual harassment

Last updated March 2024

This chapter explains what constitutes sexual harassment, and how to prevent and respond to it in your workplace.

What is sexual harassment?

Definition: Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment occurs when a person is subjected to any unwanted or uninvited sexual behaviour that a reasonable person would consider is offensive, intimidating or humiliating.

Unlawful sexual harassment is conduct that:

  • is of a sexual nature, e.g. sexual advances, acts of physical intimacy, and verbal or written comments of a sexual nature;
  • is directed to the person or about the person in their presence;
  • is not solicited or invited, i.e. unwelcome; and
  • a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would anticipate that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated, i.e. reasonable person test.

Conduct of a sexual nature

For conduct to be sexual harassment, it must be of a sexual nature.

Important: Whether conduct is of a sexual nature is to be judged objectively based on the evidence.

Conduct directed towards a person or persons is sexual conduct if it:

  • invites or otherwise explores the prospect of the person or persons participating or engaging in some form of sexual behaviour;
  • suggests the person or persons may have (or may not have) engaged in sexual behaviour;
  • suggests the person or persons may (or may not) engage in sexual behaviour; or
  • suggests the person or persons likes (or does not like) engaging in some form of sexual behaviour.

The conduct may be:

  • verbal, for example:
    • making sexual remarks, comments or innuendo;
    • telling risqué jokes or anecdotes;
    • asking intrusive questions about sexual activity or physical appearance;
    • making direct or implied sexual propositions, or unwelcome requests for dates; and
    • wolf-whistling;
  • visual, for example:
    • leering or staring at someone or parts of their body;
    • sharing suggestive, violent or sexual reading material; and
    • displaying offensive or pornographic material, such as photos, pinups, calendars or computer screensavers; or
  • physical, for example:
    • touching, patting, pinching or kissing;
    • standing too close, i.e. in someone’s personal space; and
    • brushing unnecessarily against another person’s body.