Workplace Investigations
into Sexual Harassment

Published: 4 May 2021
Published: 4 May 2021
Andrew Anderson, Legal DirectorBy: Andrew Anderson

Are you facing a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint?

Get informed about your rights, responsibilities, and options.

If you are facing a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint, getting informed about your options is essential to protecting your rights and advancing your interests. It is all the more important if the allegations are unfair or vexatious. Delays in getting informed and obtaining the right advice can lead to unnecessary mistakes, reputational harm and risks to employment security.

Each legal issue is unique. This information cannot – and is not meant to – substitute legal consultation. It is designed to outline information of a general nature if you want to learn more about workplace investigations into sexual harassment allegations, particularly as it relates to people who are the subject to such accusations.

If you face a workplace investigation into sexual harassment, contact Anderson Legal. This firm provides expert advice and representation in relation to employment law disputes. Andrew Anderson is independently recommended as being among the leading white-collar crime, corporate crime & regulatory investigations lawyers in Australia. He has substantial experience in assisting individuals with workplace investigations.

Fundamentals of sexual harassment complaints

What is the definition of ‘sexual harassment’?

If you are facing a workplace investigation into sexual harassment allegations, it is essential to understand the definition of ‘sexual harassment’ in Australia. Across Australia, there are different laws that define sexual harassment

One definition of ‘sexual harassment’, found in section 28A(1) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), states:

Meaning of sexual harassment

  1. For the purposes of this Division, a person sexually harasses another person (the person harassed ) if:
    1. the person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; 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 the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

    It requires an assessment of all relevant circumstances, including the sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, religious belief, race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, of the person harassed. It also requires consideration of the relationship between the person allegedly harassed and the person who is accused of making the advance or request or who engaged in the conduct.

    Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), the meaning of “conduct of a sexual nature” includes making a statement of a sexual nature to a person, or in the presence of a person, whether the statement is made orally or in writing.

    A similar definition of sexual harassment is found in section 119 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld), which applies to Queensland-based issues and complaints brought under its anti-discrimination laws.

    Generally, Australian laws define sexual harassment as involving:

    • Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature;
    • The conduct leaves the person feeling offended, humiliated or intimidated; and,
    • The reaction of the person is reasonable in the circumstances.

    If any part or element of the meaning of sexual harassment cannot be established, then the allegation cannot be substantiated.

    1. How do courts interpret the word ‘unwelcome’?

    The meaning of ‘unwelcome’ was considered in detail in Hughes trading as Beesley and Hughes Lawyers v Hill [2020] FCAFC 126, in which it was stated in paragraph [23]:

    [23] … if an identified form of conduct is established subs (1) also requires that it must be ‘unwelcome’ to the person allegedly harassed. This is a question of fact which is subjective and which turns only on the allegedly harassed person’s attitude to the conduct at the time. Even if the Court has concluded under the first limb that one person has engaged in conduct of a sexual nature towards another person, this will not constitute sexual harassment under the provision if it was not actually unwelcome in this sense. Ordinarily this will be proved by the person allegedly harassed giving evidence that the conduct was unwelcome but that mode of proof is not dictated by the statute and proof of this fact, like proof of any other fact, may be done by a variety of means. In some cases, I suspect this is one, the unwelcome quality of the conduct will be painfully obvious.

    It is clear from this passage that ‘unwelcome’ is a subjective question to be answered. As such, it is not to the point that the person engaging in the conduct did not intend to sexually harass the recipient of the conduct, nor is their motive (such as to engage in a joke or otherwise).

    Whether the same conduct may be acceptable to others (ie, not unwelcome), or has been an accepted feature of the workplace in the past, is also irrelevant: Hall v A & A Sheiban Pty Ltd & Ors [1989] FCA 72.

    2. The ‘reasonable’ person test for sexual harassment

    The reasonable person test is one of the elements for sexual harassment. It is an objective test, which means it is not determined from the position of the person allegedly harassed, nor simply by reference to what the person who engaged in the conduct intended or believed. The focus of the reasonable person test was explained in Hughes trading as Beesley and Hughes Lawyers v Hill [2020] FCAFC 126 in paragraphs [25] – [27]:

    [25] … The objective question is not whether a reasonable person would regard the conduct as being sexual in nature (as defined) for that is a threshold question the Court determines for itself. Nor is the objective standard applied to the question of whether the person allegedly harassed ought to have regarded the conduct as unwelcome, for that is an issue to be determined by reference to the actual state of mind of the person. Instead, the objective standard is applied to a new issue – that of whether a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

    [26] In answering this question, the reasonable person is assumed by the provision to have some knowledge of the personal qualities of the person harassed. The extent of the knowledge imputed to the reasonable person is a function of the ‘circumstances’ which the provision requires be taken into account. Mention has already been made of the nature of the relationship between the harasser and the harassed. It is convenient also to note that the circumstances will include any disability the harassed person is suffering from (subs (1A)(c)) as well as matters such as sex, age, religious belief or sexual orientation (subs (1A)(a)). But the list in subs (1A) is merely inclusive so that other unspecified but relevant circumstances may also be taken into account. The canvas is broad.

    [27] Equipped then with that information, the question to be asked is whether the reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Each of these is different in kind and it should not necessarily be thought that they are arranged in order of seriousness. It may, in some cases, be worse to be deeply offended than it is to be slightly humiliated.

    While many people typically thinking of workplace bullying involving conflicts or issues between colleagues, the law actually applies far more broadly.

    Who can be liable for sexual harassment?

    Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful. Sexual harassment may be committed by the owner of a business, managers, fellow employees, contractors or people seeking to hold one of those positions. Under amendments in 2011, it is also unlawful for a person to sexually harass another person in the course of providing or seeking, or offering to provide or receive, goods, services or facilities. This amendment increased the scope of how sexual harassment may occur in the workplace.

    So a person who sexually harasses another person may act unlawfully under sexual harassment laws (such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)), which can give rise to liability under civil claims. Some serious instances of sexual harassment may also lead to criminal complaints, such as where a sexual assault or an indecent exposure occurs.

    Employers may be vicariously liable for sexual harassment that occurs in a workplace unless they have taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent it. This is because the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), as well as other sexual harassment laws across states and territories in Australia, contains laws making employers vicariously liable. The existence of vicarious liability creates a powerful incentive for employers to ensure that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to minimise the risk of sexual harassment occurring in their workplace, as well as to act in relation to allegations of sexual harassment.

    Examples: Sexual harassment in a workplace context

    Seeing examples of what may be sexual harassment assist to illustrate the types of behaviours intended to fall within the meaning of ‘sexual harassment’. Examples of sexual harassment are given in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld), which includes:

    • physical contact such as patting, pinching or touching in a sexual way;
    • unnecessary familiarity such as deliberately brushing against a person;
    • sexual propositions;
    • unwelcome and uncalled for remarks or insinuations about a person’s sex or private life;
    • suggestive comments about a person’s appearance or body;
    • offensive telephone calls of a sexual nature; and,
    • indecent exposure.

    The above illustrates that sexual harassment can be perpetrated in a variety of ways. However, for that same reason, there will be instances where a sexual harassment complaint is made wrongly or unfairly due to a misunderstanding about the context of a person’s conduct, or because in the absence of such context, innocuous events may be construed as sexual harassment. While there are many instances where there are disputes about what actually was said or the importance of some broader context that is relevant to what may have occurred, sometimes there is simply no room for interpretation.

    Due to the implications for anyone facing a sexual harassment allegations, it is often the case that a formal workplace investigation into the sexual harassment complaint will take place prior to any decisions being made. For that reason, it is critical for anybody facing allegations of this nature to understand the fundamentals of workplace investigations.

    Fundamentals of workplace investigations

    What is the purpose of a workplace investigation?

    A workplace investigation involves an examination of an allegation or allegations of wrongdoing against an employee. Its purpose is to enable decisions to be made about the issue in a way that enforces workplace standards, complies with legal obligations, and manages workplace risk. So the essential aim of a workplace investigation is to uncover facts so as to allow an employer to make a decision about a particular issue upon a proper factual basis.

    If you are the subject of a workplace investigation looking into a sexual harassment complaint you believe or know to be unfair, wrong or vexatious, the only purpose you have is to clear your name. Understanding the fundamental purposes and aims of workplace investigations should help to shape your response and adapt it to the particular situation you may face.

    1. Enforcing workplace standards

    Most workplaces have policies and procedures that set expectations about behavioural standards in the context of a workplace. These policies and procedures may not just set standards for how employees must conduct themselves but also how employers will respond to alleged or suspected contraventions of them. They may provide guidance about the rights and responsibilities of people in a variety of contexts, including when a workplace investigation may be necessary.

    When correctly instituted, a workplace investigation is a means to enforce employment standards in a manner that is fair, consistent and predictable. However, departures from policies and procedures with respect to workplace investigations may be unfair and, in some cases, leads to disciplinary decisions – including the termination of employment – to be overturned.

    A workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint is likely to require consideration of work health and safety obligations, at the very least, due to the duty of an employer to protect employees from sexual harassment. There are many legal obligations that individuals, businesses and organisations owe under various laws. For instance, some allegations may trigger mandatory reporting obligations to law enforcement agencies, health and safety regulators, professional or industry bodies, or insurers. Failure to comply with legal obligations can obviously carry legal consequences.

    3. Managing risk

    Every business and organisation has an interest in providing a safe workplace, managing reputational risks and advancing its productivity, profitability and goals. A workplace investigation conducted well may contribute to all of those things. Done poorly, not only are those interests put at risk, legal actions and regulatory investigations may follow.

    A workplace investigation into sexual harassment allegations may not just involve a question of disciplinary action for the accused. Concurrent actions can be raised by a person who feels aggrieved in a number of ways:

    • adverse action claims;
    • anti-discrimination claims;
    • breach of contract claims;
    • human rights complaints;
    • unfair dismissal claims; and,
    • work health and safety claims.

    An investigation into sexual assault allegations therefore will likely form part of the risk-management strategies of an employer. However, unfair workplace investigations themselves create legal risks. Anybody who faces a workplace investigation into unfair sexual harassment complaints should be aware that an employer ought to be mindful of the consequences of unfair workplace investigations.

    Employee rights during workplace investigations

    Employees facing workplace investigations into sexual harassment allegations have a number of rights or are owed a number of obligations by their employer. Understanding these rights can be important to understanding how a workplace investigation may best be navigated.

    1. Confidentiality rights

    Given the reputational risks that a complaint of sexual harassment creates, employers have a duty to maintain confidentiality during a workplace investigation. It is for this reason it is quite common to see directions issued to staff who may allege, or are allegedly witnesses to, sexual harassment to observe confidentiality obligations as part of a workplace investigation. Failures to appropriately manage the confidentiality of a workplace investigation can result in successful claims against an employer, particularly if the breach of duty causes a psychiatric injury to the worker. An example of a case where compensation was payable to a respondent resulting from failings in a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint is East Coast Pipeline Pty Ltd v Workers’ Compensation Regulator [2016] QIRC 101. In that case, the inappropriate handling of a number of issues in the investigation, including issues relating to confidentiality, saw the employer liable for compensation.

    2. Health and safety rights

    Employers have a duty of care for employees who are required to deal with a workplace investigation. This includes a duty to protect the health and safety of employees who face complaints as part of a workplace investigation. An employer may be liable for injuries caused as a result, as was the case in Hayes v Queensland [2016] QCA 191, in which Dalton J stated at paragraph [110]:

    In an appropriate case a duty will arise not because the work, workload, or system of work itself is creating problems, but because there is unhappiness within the workplace, not of the employer’s making, but of which the employer is aware.

    Hayes v Queensland [2016] QCA 191 concerned four employees who faced allegations of bullying and harassment from their colleagues. While the allegations were unsubstantiated following a lengthy workplace investigation, claims were brought against the employer (State of Queensland) for breaching its duty of care by failing to provide adequate support during the process. It was found that the duty of care owed to the employees facing complaints had been breached and that it had caused psychological injuries. As was observed by Dalton J at paragraph [173]:

    In Johnson v Unisys Ltd the speeches in the House of Lords recognised that in modern times it is generally recognised and understood that “work is one of the defining features of people’s lives” and that workplace stress can give rise to recognisable psychiatric illness.

    Citation omitted.

    A failure to take ensure a timely investigation and determination of a complaint within the workplace may also be a breach of the duties of care owed to employees: see Robinson v Queensland [2017] QSC 165.

    There is an important difference between providing a safe system of work, including support for an employee during a workplace investigation, and a safe system of investigation. While the former may be a duty owed by employers to employees, the latter is not generally regarded as a right, as was held in Govier v Uniting Church [2017] QCA 12.

    While a lawyer or union representative may act as a support person, there is generally no right to have an advocate attend with a participate to a workplace investigation and speak on their behalf. While a person facing an investigation into workplace bullying allegations may seek advice from a lawyer or union representative at any stage, having a lawyer or union representative act beyond the role of a support person during an interview about allegations may not be permitted to occur.

    One of the key roles a lawyer or union representative plays during a workplace investigation is to provide advice and guidance about the process, particularly when it is thought the conduct of workplace investigation is unfair. A lawyer or union representatives may be able to take action to ensure adjustments are made, or an unfair investigation is stopped.

    4. Privilege against self-incrimination

    The privilege against self-incrimination is an important legal principle that is deeply rooted in our legal system. If you face complaints of sexual harassment, it is possible (but by no means inevitable) that such allegations could amount to criminal conduct.

    Privilege against self-incrimination means that you cannot be compelled to answer questions that may show you have committed a crime if the answers that may be given may place you in real and appreciable danger of conviction

    The protection of the privilege against self-incrimination is more complicated with respect to workplace investigations than it is in purely criminal investigations. The High Court of Australia has stated that the privilege is capable of applying to questions asked by employers of employees: Police Service Board v Morris (1985) 156 CLR 397. So the privilege against self-incrimination may apply in the employment sphere if there is a real and appreciable danger that you would incriminate yourself by answering particular questions in an interview: Grant v BHP Coal Pty Ltd [2017] FCAFC 42.

    5. Procedural fairness

    Procedural fairness is essential for anybody facing a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint. Procedural fairness applies to all aspects of a workplace investigation, including:

    • Allegations must be properly particularised and detailed to ensure the respondent understands the accusations they face and what is the scope of the investigation.
    • All evidence that is relevant, which either supports or contradicts the allegations, must be gathered and considered.
    • Real or perceived biases, prejudgment and conflicts of interest must be absent from the investigation.
    • Investigators must act promptly to avoid unfair prejudice due to delays.
    • Potential consequences or penalties that might follow the investigation ought to be identified.

    It is important that a person facing a workplace sexual harassment complaint and who is subject to a formal investigation should be afforded the opportunity to comment or respond to evidence that is inconsistent with or contradictory to their own evidence. It is not uncommon to see a respondent to an investigation not be afforded procedural fairness, which can result in adverse disciplinary decisions and possible termination of employment, particularly regarding sexual harassment allegations.

    6. Reasonable accommodations

    Employers should ensure reasonable accommodations are afforded to employees who may suffer from a disadvantage that makes their participation in a workplace investigation more difficult. This may be due to a particular characteristic, disability or illness suffered by the participant.

    Illnesses are a common issue encountered during workplace investigations. The employer or workplace investigator should take steps to understand, including through medical evidence, whether accommodations are needed and if so, what they may be.

    It can be an error for an employer or workplace investigator to not afford someone facing allegations a support person during any meetings or interviews that take place. For example, in Sheng He v Peacock Bros Pty Ltd & Wilson Lac v Peacock Bros Pty Ltd [2013] FWC 7541, an unfair dismissal claim was successful when it was found that it was unfair due to a support person not being present during a disciplinary meeting in addition to flaws in the investigation process.

    Employee responsibilities during workplace investigations

    In workplace investigations employees not only have certain rights, there are also responsibilities or obligations. These responsibilities or obligations may arise from the duties employees owe employers generally under laws relating to employment contracts, specific laws, or the policies and procedures an employee may be expected to adhere to in a given workplace.

    Employees have a general responsibility to comply with reasonable directions of their employer, including conditions imposed as part of a workplace investigation.

    In a workplace investigation into sexual harassment, a respondent will generally have the following obligations:

    • Act honestly and frankly;
    • Maintain confidentiality as reasonably required by the workplace investigation.
    • Not take adverse action against a complainant or witness; and,
    • Participate in the workplace investigation.

    There are exceptions to these general obligations, such as when a person refuses to answer questions on the basis of the privilege against self-incrimination and sometimes with respect to confidentiality issues. It is the reason why it is always necessary to take a tailored approach to the response to be given to any allegations about sexual harassment.

    If you are facing a workplace investigation and fail to uphold your responsibilities as part of it, you may jeopardise the effectiveness of any response you may provide. Obtaining early and authoritative advice from an experienced employment lawyer can assist you to understand your rights, obligations and options.

    Responding to sexual harassment complaints

    Steps to providing effective responses

    Whenever you are faced with a legal question, the quickest way to find an answer to it is to ask somebody who already knows. With workplace investigations, there is no single answer as to how to best respond if you are the subject of a complaint such as sexual harassment.

    While there are methods or steps that may be followed to try to improve the effectiveness of any response to allegations, in truth all responses must be tailored to the specific needs of the individual situation. One method is to determine the options available through a series of steps, specifically:

    1. Identify the issue (issue)
    2. Identify the legal framework (rules)
    3. Apply the law to the specific evidence relevant to the issue (application)
    4. Decide the appropriate response for your case (decision)

    1. Issue

    In order to provide an effective response to a workplace investigation into unfair sexual harassment complaints, you need to be afforded sufficient particulars of the complaint in order to understand what you are facing and have a reasonable opportunity to answer them. In some cases, this will extend to being provided with some or all of the evidence relevant to the investigation.

    What meets the needs of procedural fairness is not fixed. For that reason, it is not uncommon that a lawyer representing a respondent facing a workplace investigation seeks further and better particulars in respect of the allegations or disclosure of evidence that may be relevant to them.

    2. Rules

    It is surprising how frequently employers and workplace investigators overlook key aspects of the legal framework relevant to workplace investigations, including with respect to sexual harassment allegations. Why that can matter is the legal consequences that flow from the investigation findings for a respondent may be overturned or altered, such as through unfair dismissal claims, general protections claims or action in respect of a breach of contract.

    Understanding the legal framework generally is necessary to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a particular allegation. For example, understanding that the reasonable person test can assist people to decide whether the context in which an event took place. That is, the circumstances relevant to it may affect whether a ‘reasonable person’ would have anticipated the possibility of the other person being offended, humiliated or intimidated. A proper understanding of the law may assist to focus on what facts may be relevant to the issue, and whether any facts possible change the outcome.

    In representing a respondent to unfair workplace bullying allegations, identifying the legal principles and other rules that apply to the situation forms a critical aspect of the work, as it frames the advice about how the law may apply to the facts.

    3. Application

    By understanding the issue and the legal framework, you should be able to identify what facts or evidence are relevant to answering the allegation. If you are facing a sexual harassment complaint you know or believe to be unfair, understanding these matters affords you an opportunity to ensure you can provide a fulsome response.

    In the context of a workplace investigation, a respondent to an allegation may simply take the view that all they need to do is answer questions truthfully and let the process take its course. This view places full trust in the fairness of the process commenced by the employer, which may or may not involve an independent investigator. In truth, such an approach may leave a person vulnerable to unnecessary mistakes, reputational harm and risks to employment security.

    Properly understanding the issue and the rules that apply to it allows people to proactively make decisions knowing their rights and obligations. For example, a respondent may vehemently wish to defend themselves against the allegations, but require further and better particulars before being able to properly address them. Alternatively, a respondent who fears the complaint may be substantiated (whether fairly or unfairly) may wish to resolve the issue without an investigation needing to reach a conclusion, if possible. They may no longer wish to continue in their current job due to the issues that have arisen. This may mean a lawyer may be engaged to attempt to resolve issues through confidential negotiations, although it should be noted that the advent of the #metoo movement, as well as other societal and legal developments, settlements and non-disclosure agreements are increasingly controversial as a means of resolution.

    A person who understands their rights, responsibilities and options is far better equipped to make a decision that best suits their interests over the person who simply follows a process without such understanding.

    4. Decision

    Simply put, different people will draw different conclusions about how best to respond to a workplace investigation into workplace sexual harassment complaints. In most cases, there will be multiple ways to respond and the decision will be made according to the personal priorities of the individual.

    When a workplace investigation does not result in the findings you thought it would, or you end up being disciplined or losing your job as a result of it, knowing what options you had can still assist. It may position you to know whether you have the ability to challenge the fairness of the investigation, disciplinary action or dismissal, such as by filing a claim in the Fair Work Commission.

    Challenging the fairness of an investigation

    It is not uncommon for people to have misgivings about the fairness of a workplace investigation they may be subject to, yet still ‘hope for the best’ in the belief that it may be held against them if they challenge issues during the investigation. While this is an understandable thought, it can backfire. Failing to make a timely objection to something may be taken into account as being the product of disappointment with the process only in the aftermath.

    Deciding to raise objections to aspects (or the entirety) of a workplace investigation requires careful consideration. However, where the concern relates to something that may adversely affect the conclusions reached by an investigator, it can be important to consider what impact it may have on the ultimate outcomes. Examples of instances where an investigation may be challenged include the following:

    • Bias or perceptions of bias on the part of the investigator;
    • Investigators acting inconsistently with the law or procedures relevant to the particular investigation;
    • Allegations that are general, vague or do not disclose their basis; and,
    • Failure to disclose key evidence or give notice about possible adverse findings.

    Generally, though not always, the longer a process goes on the harder it is to seek alterations to it. For that reason, anybody who holds concerns about the fairness of an investigation into workplace bullying allegations ought to seek advice from an experienced employment lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

    Confidential negotiations and settlements

    Confidential negotiations regularly occur between parties during a dispute. Generally speaking, attempting to settle a disputed issue through negotiation, which can avoid litigation and claims being filed, may be in the interests of all concerned parties.

    Invariably, employers and employees who reach a settlement enter into a deed of agreement, which is often the subject of confidentiality provisions, recording the resolution of all disputes that may be resolved by law and on what terms.

    While many people initially go into a workplace investigation involving sexual harassment allegations wishing to maintain their position and defend their conduct. The realisation of delays in investigations, the emotional difficulties and stress of dealing with contested issues, as well as challenging adverse findings through court proceedings does see people change their mind about trying to resolve the issue by negotiation and, in appropriate cases, non-disclosure agreements.

    Disputes following workplace investigations

    There may be a range of disputes that following workplace investigations. Often, when adverse findings are made or disciplinary action is taken, people seek to know their options to correct the errors they see or can sense.

    Disclosure of the investigation report

    Respondents are not always given a copy of the investigation report, nor are they always provided with an opportunity to comment on contradictory evidence or potential adverse findings. In some cases, this can lead to disputes, sometimes for good reason. Experience has shown that investigators and decision-makers do get things wrong, which can lead to unfair outcomes. Examples of the types of disputes that can occur over investigation reports include:

    • The evidence relied upon to support certain findings is unstated or unclear;
    • The reasoning process for certain findings is unstated or unclear;
    • The report overlooks or ignores key credibility or reliability issues;
    • Conflicts of interest have not been managed appropriately; and,
    • Failure to disclose the full investigation report and evidence gathered.

    If you find yourself disputing the outcome of an investigation report, it is possible to dispute it in a number of ways, such as by commencing an unfair dismissal application, general protections claim or an action for breach of contract.

    Disputed disciplinary decisions

    If you are subject to notification of a potential disciplinary issue or are under investigation for a workplace sexual harassment complaint, you may face disciplinary action that you dispute. Given the seriousness of sexual harassment and the risk it poses to health and safety, dismissal often follows when complaints are substantiated. The following are xamples of disciplinary steps that may be taken by an employer:

    • Dismissal;
    • Show cause notices requiring you to ‘show cause’ why disciplinary action, such as dismissal, should not be taken against you;
    • Suspension from employment; and,
    • Warning letters, including final written warnings.

    Some disputes may be resolved by direct discussions or negotiations with your employer or their lawyers. Others can only be resolved by claims in courts, tribunals or commissions. Understanding your options to dispute decisions about your employment and reputation is essential to ensuring you do not face an outcome that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

    Claims in the Fair Work Commission, etc.

    Commencing a claim in any jurisdiction is a significant step. While it does not necessarily stop negotiations or alternative resolutions to a disputed issue, it necessarily involves adversarial action that – if not resolved – can take weeks, months and sometimes even years to end. Before commencing any claim, such as an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission, obtaining advice from an experienced employment lawyer can ensure you get the guidance necessary to know how to maximise your prospects of successfully litigating a claim.

    Workplace Investigations into Sexual Harassment - Anderson Legal