Last updated June 2023
This chapter explains what constitutes sexual harassment, and how to prevent and respond to it in your workplace.
What is 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.
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
- 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.