Sexual Harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that interferes with an employee’s job performance, and job satisfaction, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Some employees may believe that sexual harassment at work is simply a matter of flirting. However, sexual harassment is not acceptable behaviour in the workplace and should be reported immediately.

Inappropriate behaviour at work can be:

  • Inappropriate sexual conduct or jokes, including through text, email and social media
  • inappropriate touching, patting, kissing or pinching
  • Stalking, catcalling, overly personal questions about your sex life
  • If you say no to your boss’s advances, he may threaten to overlook you for promotion.

If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work you should first report the incident to a supervisor, manager or human resources professional. By law, your employer must try to stop the harassment and put a stop to it immediately.

Ask for the sexual harassment policy:

Sexual harassment is a health and safety issue.  All employers should have a written policy statement advising employees that sexual harassment is against the law and will not be tolerated. The policy should give examples of what constitutes sexual harassment and should point out that appropriate measures will be taken against anyone who offends.
Policy statements should set out an employee’s right (under both the Human Rights Act and the Employment Relations Act) to complain about sexual harassment, along with initial in-house procedures to follow if a complaint is made.

If you report sexual harassment and it’s not stopped you can take a personal grievance.

Sexual Harassment is misconduct

Sexual harassment at work should not be tolerated. If an employer fails to take adequate steps to prevent sexual harassment, the employer may face legal action.

You will be expected to have kept records of the incidents and to have *told someone else at your workplace, preferably management.

You may raise a personal grievance if your employer fails to respond to your complaints (*or if your employer is the person who is harassing you). We can help you at the outset to try and resolve your problem and we can help you with your grievance and subsequent progress towards a solution.

External resources:

Worksafe’s NZ Sexual harassment advice for workers: https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/sexual-harassment/advice-for-workers/

Me Too NZ  https://metoonz.co.nz/

Human Rights Commission https://www.hrc.co.nz/


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