Employer’s legal responsibilities regarding sexual harassment

Employer’s legal responsibilities regarding sexual harassment


An employer can be held vicariously liable if they fail to take all reasonable steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Implement a sexual harassment policy consistent with discrimination legislation to avoid legal ramifications.

Discrimination legislation
The Sex Discrimination Act is a Commonwealth statute that applies to all of Australia. The Act defines sexual harassment as unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship which is mutual or consensual.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Staring or leering
  • Unwelcome touching
  • Intrusive questions or statements about one’s personal life
  • Requests for sex or repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates
  • Inappropriate advances on social networking sites

What you can do
Employers should take reasonable steps by drafting a sexual harassment policy. The courts will judge the policy’s efficacy should an employee bring a claim against you.

The policy should contain:

  • Adequate details defining sexual harassment
  • Be endorsed by the employer through workplace education and training on procedures
  • Outline the disciplinary courses of action should a breach occur
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If you believe the matters discussed above are relevant to your business, please contact Darren Smith of our office to discuss further.


Darren is a Chartered Accountant with extensive experience, including working in the big 4 and medium sized firms before becoming a partner of a city based firm in 2000.

He has gained much experience and has extensive knowledge in providing business and taxation advice, superannuation planning, negotiation of sales and acquisitions of businesses and property development. His client base covers a wide range of industry groups.

Darren works with business owners to grow their businesses and create personal wealth within and outside of their business.


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