Harassment in the Workplace – a short explanation

The Equal Opportunity Act: a legal means of protecting from discrimination and/or harassment either at work or away from work.

 To start off let’s define discrimination. Discrimination is when a person is treated unfairly because of their sex, race, marital status, religious or political beliefs, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, impairments and/or family. This means associating people with a thing (group, class or category), rather than on individual worth.

Harassment in the workplace is, making fun of people, cronyism and having favourites and giving unfair workloads or lack of training. This means harassment is advantaging and disadvantaging some in behaviour and workload, but also, the treatment of one another. However, having fun with your workmates is not harassment. Also getting on better with some people than others and being productive at work isn’t harassment. Lastly, harassment isn’t being requested to perform unfamiliar tasks.

When combining harassment and discrimination, we have different titles. Titles such as:

  • Racial Harassment
    • Which is, taunting and unfair treatment based on a person’s race, colour, descent, ethnic origin and nationality.
  • Sexual Harassment
    • The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 states:
      • Section 28A (i)

“… a person sexually harasses another person (the “person harassed”) if

  1. The person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwanted request for sexual favours; or
  2. Engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed;

In circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated”

Physically molesting a person, indecent exposure, sexual assault and obscene communications (phone calls, letters, faxes, emails, text messages etc.) are all actions which may constitute a criminal offence.

What can you do if harassment occurs in your workplace? Report the matter to your Supervisor, Safety Officer, Safety Manager or HR Manager. Politely but firmly request the person cease their actions, stating you find their behaviour unacceptable. Keep diary notes of comments and conversations.

Lastly, do you know what is classed as your workplace? Your workplace is the place where you work, in company provided or arranged transport to and from work, lunch rooms and change rooms and also, a company provided accommodation, including hotels, dongas and camps.

Any form of harassment is illegal under both State and Federal legislation, no matter where it occurs.