What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to an unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favours or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.  Sexual harassment does not need to be repeated or continuous, it can involve a single incident. Sexual harassment can take many forms including, but not limited to:

  • unwelcome physical touching, hugging or kissing;
  • staring or leering at someone or at parts of their body;
  • suggestive comments or jokes;
  • insults or taunts based on sex;
  • displaying sexually suggestive pictures, videos, audiotapes, emails, blogs, books or objects;
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
  • persistent requests for dates or pressure for sexual favours; or
  • molestation, indecent exposure, indecent assault, sexual assault or rape.

Sexual harassment can occur at work, including via email, text messaging and social media.  It can also take place when interacting at a work-related social function, or during internal or external training. Sexual harassment, in some circumstances, can amount to a criminal offence. Sexual harassment which occurs at a workplace in circumstances where the harassed person reasonably believes they will be disadvantaged, or are in fact disadvantaged, at work, for rejecting the advance or objecting to the conduct is unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.  A person who believes they have been subject to sexual harassment under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 can lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission. http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/

WA health system policies

You may wish to familiarise yourself with the WA health system policies issued by the Department of Health which are relevant to sexual harassment.  The policies contain mandatory obligations for all health service provider employees, meaning that each health service provider and their employees are bound by the policies, are required to implement the policies and are bound by their mandatory requirements. Code of Conduct The WA health system Code of Conduct identifies CORE values fundamental in all areas of work, namely collaboration, openness respect and empowerment. The Code of Conduct translates these values into principles that guide conduct in the workplace.  The intent of the Code is to promote a positive workplace culture by providing a framework to support ethical day-to-day conduct and decision making. The Code outlines the process that must be followed if a staff suspects that a breach of the Code has occurred.  Generally, in the first instance a staff member should report the matter to their manager, but if they are not comfortable doing this they can report the matter to a senior member of staff. Equal Opportunity, Discrimination and Harassment Policy The purpose of the Equal Opportunity, Discrimination and Harassment Policy is to ensure that WA health system employees understand the expectations, as well as the legal obligations in relation to discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The policy provides details about what sexual harassment is, including what unlawful sexual harassment in employment means under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. Employee Grievance Resolution Policy The Employee Grievance Resolution Policy outlines the requirements and responsibilities of health service providers to establish an Employee Grievance Resolution process. A “grievance” is broadly defined to mean any real or perceived problem or concern in relation to work, the work environment or working relationship raised with the employer by an employee. A grievance could include an allegation of sexual harassment. Grievances are required to be considered seriously and to be dealt with fairly, sensitively and as quickly as possible.  Under the policy, attempts should be made to resolve the matter informally before resorting to more formal and structured processes.

What can I do if I’ve been sexually harassed?

There are a number of things you can do if you believe that you have been sexually harassed.

1: Personal approach

Depending upon the circumstances, you could ask someone you trust to speak to the person who you believe has sexually harassed you, and see if there is an opportunity to find out what their perspective is.  Sometimes the person demonstrating the unacceptable behaviour doesn’t understand the effect that their behaviour may be having and this could be an opportunity to reflect on their behaviour and make changes.

Again, depending upon the circumstances and how you feel about the incident, you may feel comfortable speaking to the person you believe has sexually harassed you yourself.

2: Informal processes

If you believe that you have been sexually harassed, you should seek support from your peer network, mentor, colleagues, the AMA or the Employee Assistance Program [more detail of numbers etc.]

You may wish to discuss the incident informally with:

  • the AMA
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • External 24 hour agency – eg. Lifeline
  • your General Practitioner

3: Formal Processes

WA health system

If you believe you have been sexually harassed, you may wish to have the incident dealt with formally within the WA health system [perhaps link to site where policies summarised and can be accessed] by discussing the incident with a representative from your health service provider:

Child and Adolescent Health Service

Senior HR Consultant – 0466 460 990

East Metropolitan Health Service

HR Consultant – 9222 2456

North Metropolitan Health Service

Director Human Resources – 6457 4712

South Metropolitan Health Service

Manager HR – 6152 4311

WA Country Health Service

Central Office

Principal HR Consultant – 9222 6491

Goldfields

HR Consultant – 9080 5221

Great Southern

HR Consultant – 9892 2289 or 9842 7577

Kimberley

HR Consultant – 9194 1618

Midwest

HR Consultant – 9956 2499 or 9956 8685

Pilbara

HR Consultant – 9174 1628

Southwest

HR Consultant – 9781 2021 or 9752 6303

Wheatbelt

HR Consultant – 9622 4304 or 9622 4306

External avenues

Sexual harassment which occurs at a workplace in circumstances where the harassed person reasonably believes they will be disadvantaged, or are in fact disadvantaged, at work, for rejecting the advance or objecting to the conduct is unlawful under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984.  A person who believes they have been subject to sexual harassment under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 can lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

 

Sexual harassment is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).  This occurs where a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or engages in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.  A person who believes they have been sexually harassed under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission

If you believe the sexual harassment amounts to a criminal offence, you should report the incident to the WA Police.

Depending upon the circumstances, you may be required to report the incident to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) if the incident constitutes “sexual misconduct in the practice of the profession.”