What are your options when dealing with workplace sexual harassment?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to respond to sexual harassment and assault issues across Queensland.

What are your options when dealing with workplace sexual harassment?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to respond to sexual harassment and assault issues across Queensland.

How this firm can protect your interests

How this firm can protect your interests

Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, is an award-winning lawyer with a passion for employment law. He is independently recommended as being among the leading corporate crime, white-collar crime and regulatory investigations lawyers in Australia (Doyles Guide, 2020).
Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Queensland Court of Appeal, Royal Commissions, Fair Work Commission and multiple other courts dealing with trials and other hearings, Andrew Anderson understands how to succeed in complex and difficult cases.
Andrew Anderson has worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in private practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers in Brisbane. His depth of courtroom advocacy experience ranges from simple cases right through to complex trials and appeals.
Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and fighting for justice is an everyday pursuit.

Learn more about sexual harassment laws

1. Specific sexual harassment issues

Workplace sexual harassment constitutes misconduct in the work that generally results in disciplinary action, often dismissal. Workers at all levels can be the subject of sexual harassment. Just as harassment can cause harm, false sexual harassment allegations can unfairly ruin reputations and livelihoods. For anybody facing a sexual harassment issue in their workplace, it is critical to get informed about your rights, responsibilities and legal options.

Experiencing Sexual Harassmsent? Your Options.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) defines ‘sexual harassment’, as does the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) in Queensland. Sexual harassment in the workplace can have serious consequences for those who experience it. If you believe you may be experiencing sexual harassment, getting informed about your options may be critical to protecting yourself, your health and safety, as well as your livelihood.

False Sexual Harassment Allegations

Facing false sexual harassment allegations, which may be a result of misunderstandings at one end and vexatious lies at the other, cause significant stress to those on the receiving end of them. It is important to protect your interests and reputation.

If you are falsely accused of sexual harassment, it may feel like a daunting or isolating experience. Each case is different. While some false complaints are motivated by a desire to deflect attention from poor performance, others can be more complex and nuanced. Obtaining early and authoritative advice about your rights, responsibilities and options may be critical to you successfully defending yourself against false allegations.

Local Government Sexual Harassment

If you are a public sector employee working in local government, the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) may be relevant to sexual harassment allegations and complaints.

An employee of a local government may have a number of options to raise allegations or complaints of sexual harassment under misconduct or discrimination protections provided by laws in operation in Queensland. If you are a local government employee and have been subject to sexual harassment, or have been accused of sexual harassment, it is critical to know your rights, responsibilities and legal options.

Sexual Harassment – Public Servants

If you are a public servant working for the Queensland government, the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) may be relevant to sexual harassment allegations and complaints.

An employee of the Queensland Public Service may have a number of options to raise allegations or complaints of sexual harassment under misconduct or discrimination protections provided by laws in operation in Queensland. If you are a government employee in Queensland and have been subject to sexual harassment, or have been accused of it, it is critical to know your rights, responsibilities and legal options.

Sexual Harssment in Small Businesses

Many people who are faced with sexual harassment issues in small businesses understandably get concerned about what options they may have to deal with the situation. Sexual harassment creates a risk to health and safety and can have unanticipated consequences. Both businesses and individuals have a range of rights, responsibilities and options when it comes to preventing, stopping and addressing sexual harassment issues in the workplace.

2. Common issues with sexual harassment

Below are a number of common issues that people confront when dealing with workplace sexual harassment issues. While the information about each issue has been created to help people seeking to learn more about common issues relating to sexual harassment, it cannot – and is not meant to – substitute legal consultation. To get tailored advice about an issue that may be raised in a specific case, contact Anderson Legal.

Confidentiality & Workplace Investigations

There is a duty on employers to preserve confidentiality during workplace investigations, due to the risks associated with real or perceived reputational damage. Failure to preserve confidentiality can result in successful claims against employers.

When faced with allegations and the need for a workplace investigation, employers have a duty of care with respect to maintaining confidentiality. Successful workers’ compensation claims and defamation claims may follow breaches of confidentiality obligations where reputational harm follows. For this reason, workplace investigations often involve requirements imposed on employees to strictly preserve confidentiality as part of the investigative process. 

Consensual Relationships in the Workplace

Consensual relationships in the workplace do not constitute sexual harassment if the conduct is invited, mutual, consensual or reciprocated. However, issues can arise during or after romantic relationships in the workplace.

Consensual relationships (sometimes referred to as ‘office romances’) in the workplace create particular challenges for business in managing, particularly when sexual harassment allegations follow the breakdown of such relationships. While consensual conduct between work colleagues will not generally be sexual harassment, coercive or abusive behaviours may alter the nature of the relationship and open the door to disputes. 

Responding to Workplace Investigations

Many people who face sexual harassment complaints in the workplace are managers in one form or another. It is common for the breakdown of consensual relationships to also lead to complaints, particularly when the job security of one person is put in question. Responding to a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint can present unique challenges and have significant consequences.

Sexual Harassment: Civil and Criminal Law Issues

Sexual harassment is often dealt with by civil law resolutions, such as through disciplinary action, discrimination complaints and dismissals. However, it can also lead to police investigations and criminal charges in some cases.

Unwelcome conduct is one of the essential elements of sexual harassment as it is defined in number of laws in Australia. When certain conduct occurs without consent, such as touching or groping, it may be both sexual harassment and sexual assault. While many people may choose not to make police complaints, it is important to understand their options and the legal risks associated with certain allegations and complaints.

Employer Rights & Responsibilities

Employers owe a duty of care to their employees, which extends to protecting them from sexual harassment. In discharging its responsibilities relating to employee welfare, employers also have certain rights in dealing with harassment allegations.

Employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to protect their employees from risks to health and safety, which includes sexual harassment. Workplace contracts may explicitly or implicitly require employees to cooperate with investigations, including into allegations of harassment. The responsibilities employers have with respect to preventing sexual harassment exist to ensure workers are protected, as far as is reasonably possible, from it.

3. Possible consequences of sexual harassment

For anybody facing sexual harassment allegations, there can be a number of consequences that can result. For many people, the potentially far-reaching effects of a sexual harassment complaint can come as a shock, which underscores why early advice from an experienced lawyer can be crucial to protecting your rights and advancing your interests.

Responding to a Show Cause Letter at Work

A show cause letter is often sent during a disciplinary process to notify an employee of possibility of action being taken against them, such as the termination of their employment, and give them an opportunity to provide a response.

If you need to respond to a show cause letter at work, it is necessary to understand the importance of your response to what may follow. Failing to raise certain issues, or addressing the wrong issues, may not only see you face a disciplinary decision that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable, you may also jeopardise your ability to take action over a wrongful decision. Getting advice when responding to a show cause letter can be critical to the outcome.

Disciplinary Action – Dismissal

Employers may choose to dismiss an employee for a conduct or capacity issue, which may follow a workplace investigation. The termination of employment may be without notice in cases of serious misconduct, such as for theft.

If you are dismissed from work and seek to know your options, there may be some steps you can take if you believe you were treated unlawfully or unfairly. Employees who are dismissed following a workplace investigation may seek to challenge the fairness of the investigation, or the reasoning in an investigation report, which may be the basis for an employer’s decision to dismiss. Flawed investigations can lead to successful unfair dismissal claims.

Bullying, Discrimination & Harassment Claims

If you are subject to bullying, discrimination or harassment, there are a number of possible claims that may be available to litigate, including through human rights and anti-discrimination commissions as well as the Fair Work Commission.

Increasingly, instead of seeking to deal with workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment claims simply through the Fair Work Commission, individuals are seeing the benefits of pursuing claims through human rights and anti-discrimination commissions across Australia. Additionally, people who suffer psychological or psychiatric injuries may also seek to pursue workers’ compensation claims among other types of claims that may be available.

General Protections Claims (Adverse Action)

In Australia, there are certain protections (called general protections) employees have that are designed to prevent an employer from taking adverse action over – such as disciplining or dismissing a worker because they exercise a workplace right.

A general protections claim allows a worker to bring a claim against their employer for taking actions that cause detriment (adverse action) because they exercise a workplace right or for some other protected reason. It is possible for employees to apply for injunctions to stop the decisions or actions taking effect, as well as to pursue compensation and other remedies for the resulting harm or damage caused by the adverse action.

Unfair Dismissal Claims

Following a workplace investigation that results in an employer deciding to dismiss an employee, it is often open for that employee to dispute the dismissal by filing an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission.

Successful unfair dismissal claims may result in reinstatement and compensation being ordered by the Fair Work Commission. There are strict deadlines that apply to unfair dismissal claims so it is important that anybody considering lodging an unfair dismissal claim gets the advice and guidance needed to successfully navigate the dispute. Anderson Legal provides expert advice and guidance with respect to unfair dismissal claims.

Do you need personalised legal advice or representation about an issue involving sexual harassment?

If you are facing a sexual harassment issue or related matter, obtaining early and authoritative advice may be essential to protecting your rights and legal interests. Andrew Anderson has experience in assisting individuals to deal with issues arising with respect to harassment allegations and complaints.

If you need to contact Anderson Legal, you can call the firm on (07) 3505 7070. Alternatively, you can complete our form and we will try to contact you.

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