Whilst notions of equality and commonsense should dictate that sexual advances in the work environment are not condoned, unfortunately sexual harassment by both employers and co-workers remains problematic in Australian businesses.
Obviously the emotional and health effects of sexual harassment impact severely on the victim. But rarely do employers expect a sexual harassment claim to affect their business.
Employers need to be aware of the ramifications of an employee bringing a claim for sexual harassment, and should take positive steps to prevent an incident occurring in the workplace.
It is vital that all businesses have a harassment policy in place, preferably in conjunction with anti-discrimination and equal opportunity strategies.
Employers need to ensure that not only is a policy in place, but that complaints regarding sexual or any other form of discrimination are dealt with in a confidential and responsive manner, and that all grievances raised are adequately addressed.
Unfortunately many instances of sexual harassment result in the victim’s employment being unfairly terminated. In such a situation, the employer can expect OH&S implications to flow from a failure to create a safe working environment, together with an unfair dismissal or unlawful termination claim being filed by the employee.
A breach of the general protections grounds under the Fair Work Act (which include sexual discrimination and filing of a complaint) can result in the employee being awarded compensation, together with the employer being fined up to $33,000 for a corporation or $6,600 for an individual, for each offence.
It is therefore important that employers have the necessary written policies in place to comply with their legislative obligations.
The Employment Law team at Everingham Solomons is well equipped to assist you with all your workplace relations issues from provision of written policies, advice regarding termination of employees and redundancy, contracts of employment and warning letters, to the application of the Modern Awards, because Helping You is Our Business.
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