Workplace sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can occur any time a person is undertaking a work-related activity.

It can occur:

  • in the normal place of work, such as a shop or office
  • when attending meetings and appointments in another workplace
  • during corporate and social events
  • while travelling for work. 

Employer's responsibilities

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) requires employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. 

This applies regardless of whether the harasser is another worker, customer or client.

If an employer knows about it happening (or should have known) they must act to stop it and prevent it from happening again. 

Employers are vicariously liable for the actions of staff unless they can show that they have taken reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment and deal with it properly if it happens. 

Recommended reasonable steps

Employers can adopt the following to reduce the risk of sexual harassment:

  • develop and promote a written policy which rules out sexual harassment in the workplace
  • inform all staff of what you expect of them
  • make sure managers and supervisors know how to promote a safe and fair workplace
  • provide awareness training for managers and staff
  • know how to handle inappropriate behaviours before they escalate
  • have a complaint handling procedure for dealing with problems if they arise
  • encourage staff to come forward with problems or complaints
  • treat complaints seriously, quickly and confidentially, and ensure staff receiving complaints are appropriately trained
  • monitor the workplace culture
  • survey staff on sexual harassment and discuss it at staff meetings.

Staff can attend training at the Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, or we can tailor a program to your workplace. 

Worker's rights

If you tell your employer you are being sexually harassed at work, your employer must act to stop it and prevent it from happening again. 

If you think you are being sexually harassed at work, you can:

  • try talking to the person harassing you and let them know they are making you feel uncomfortable
  • talk to your manager or supervisor, Human Resources officer, health and safety contact person, union representative or a lawyer
  • contact our office for information or to make a complaint.

Taking action can help stop sexual harassment and improve the situation for others in the future.

Criminal offences

Some sexual harassment, such as touching without permission, can also be a criminal offence and the police can prosecute the offender. You must make a police report if you want police to consider prosecuting the offender.