find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Speaking out against sexual harassment

Speaking out against sexual harassment

Studies have shown that bystanders are often silent when they witness sexual harassment at work - even in law firms. Harriet Stacey outlines how employees can take a stand.There are many…

Studies have shown that bystanders are often silent when they witness sexual harassment at work - even in law firms. Harriet Stacey outlines how employees can take a stand.

There are many competing reasons why some work colleagues do nothing about sexual harassment. They may be concerned about taking sides, fear losing their job, believe they are not personally offended by the mis­conduct or simply be reluctant to make a com­plaint against a more senior member of staff.

But witnesses should take a stand against improper conduct at work.

A national phone survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission found 84 per cent of sexual harassment incidents in the workplace were not reported.

This means only 16 per cent who had been sexually harassed during this period formally reported it or made a complaint.

The survey released late last year was conducted over a five-year period to measure the extent of sexual harassment among Australian workers.

Of those who did not make a com­plaint about sexual harassment the sur­vey found that 50 per cent didn't think it was serious enough or were fearful of a negative impact on themselves, 21 per cent had a lack of faith in the complaint process and 29 per cent took care of the problem themselves.

If you witness behviour that could amount to sexual harassment there are some things you can, and should, do.

Firstly, ask the person being harassed, "Are you okay with that? Do you want me to say anything?"

Secondly, if it's not appropriate con­duct you can complain - even though you may not be offended by it.

Thirdly, make a note of what you have seen and how people responded.

And fourthly, tell the person being harassed you will make a note. They may need it later. Lack of evidence is a key barrier to making a complaint. As an observer you can provide the evidence.

If you're worried about taking sides, just record what you saw and heard - just the facts. There is no need to inter­pret. If needed, your comments will either support or refute a complaint. That may be all that is needed.

Complaints of sexual harassment are often only made when the victim has been discriminated against, passed over for promotion, shortlisted for redundancy or failed a performance review. In such cases complaints may be designed to postpone an adverse decision.

Often victims believe they have been "managing" the bad behaviour by a col­league and so do nothing - sometimes for fear of losing their job.

But often doing nothing is more harmful to their career than speaking out.

Harriet Stacey is the co-founder and principal of Wise Workplace Investigations.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Speaking out against sexual harassment
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Scales of Justice
06:04
‘Ego status’ compelled ex-lawyer to defraud $2.97M, court told
Debarred lawyer John Gordon Bradfield told an NSW District Court that he was driven by “ego status...
Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA), Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legislation,
06:03
ALA welcomes ‘tough’ Qld manslaughter laws
The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has welcomed Queensland’s new industrial manslaughter legisl...
Legal podcasts, tune in, microphone
06:00
Legal podcasts you have to tune in to right now
The rise of the internet has hailed in a new dawn for storytelling. Here’s our top pick of podcast...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...