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Sexual Harassment at Christmas Parties – What can I do?

Christmas is fast approaching, and with it all the end of year workplace festivities. It’s a time of year when everyone is allowed to relax, enjoy each other’s company and a couple of cold beverages. Sometimes it’s all too easy to let the merriness go to our heads and allow inappropriate behaviour to get swept under the rug.

Recent events in Hollywood, the #MeToo campaign, as well as more close to home with the Don Burke allegations have brought to light the extent of sexual harassment that is experienced world-wide. Both men and women can experience sexual harassment in the work place. Awareness of the law means that you can combat sexual harassment whether you experience it yourself, or you see it happening to a colleague.

What is considered sexual harassment?

If someone makes an unwelcome sexual advance, requests sexual favours or engages in unwelcome sexual conduct towards you, this is considered sexual harassment. This must have occurred in a manner that a reasonable person would have anticipated would cause you to be humiliated, offended or intimidated. This can include unwanted sexual contact, repeated unwelcome propositions, and comments of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

While most of us don’t have to deal with the problems of the casting couch, almost every work environment has people that exercise authority over others. This can make speaking out about harassment very difficult. South Australian and Australian law requires employers to ensure a safe workplace and this includes safety from sexual harassment. If employers become aware of any kind of sexual harassment, they are required to take action to prevent this occurring in the future.

A Christmas Party isn’t work, right?

Actually, that’s wrong. If sexual harassment occurs at a work function, your employer is liable for that behaviour. This means that they have to make every effort to provide a safe work environment. If you get harassed at your work party, then you can report it to your employer who must investigate the offending employee, and thereafter instigate disciplinary action if appropriate. If your employer doesn’t take adequate steps to provide a safe environment, then you can also take action against your employer. You do not need to tolerate inappropriate behaviour at work events, and this includes your Christmas party.

What can we do for you?

If you experience sexual harassment in the workplace, we are here to help.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 08 8210 5400 or email lawyers@georgiadis.com.au.

Blog post by Lynn Pham

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