Nobody has the right to engage in workplace harassment including violence or physical abuse, not even your boss. Everyone has the right to a harassment-free workplace that does not affect your health and safety. 

You should not become a harassment statistic, but be protected against a hostile work environment, psychological harassment, intimidation, sexually explicit comments and physical violence.  If you do suffer workplace harassment, you can bring a lawsuit against the perpetrator.

Harassment in the workplace is far too common in Australia, but do employees have legal recourse if they feel harassed? Absolutely yes. If this is you, contact a PK Simpson lawyer as soon as possible to have your claims addressed. Our expert personal injury lawyers have the skill and experience to guide  you if you need to claim compensation or pursue your rights under the law. 

Most Harassment Happens in Workplaces

Workplace bullying, sexual harassment and violence can happen in any work environment. But it often occurs (and more recently since C0vid entered Australia and people are more stressed) in hospital emergency rooms and in paramedic call-outs where patients are aggressive. 

It also occurs where police are working in emergency situations, and in aeroplanes where a passenger becomes aggressive to staff.  More perplexing, it’s occurring in situations where customers refuse to wear masks when they are mandatory and staff ask them to comply .  

Workplace Discrimination and Harassment

Harrasment is against anti-discrimination laws, but the workplace is where most harassment happens. Legally, your employer cannot harass you at work, and must also take “all reasonable steps” to ensure there is no harassment happening in their workplace.

Your employer has a duty of care to do their best to ensure no workers are being harassed or subjected to other unwelcome conduct by bosses, supervisors, work colleagues, clients, or customers. No matter whether they employ permanent, part-time or casual workers. 

“All reasonable steps” may include:

  • Setting out a clear anti-harassment policy with procedures for addressing harassment in the workplace;
  • Providing all workers with a clear understanding of the policy and ensuring they all understand what constitutes harassment and procedures to address it. 
  • Make sure workers follow the guidelines. 

If you are OK with what might seem like harassment in the workplace and it doesn’t affect your health and safety, then there’s no need to make a complaint. But make sure the behaviour doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable and doesn’t affect your work or is against the standards set by your employer. 

The Legal Definition of Workplace Harassment

Workplace health and safety depends on workers being protected. The routinely accepted, general legal definition of workplace harassment is where:

A worker is repeatedly subjected to behaviour (other than sexual harassment) by someone in their workplace, which may include the worker’s employer, a coworker, or a group of other workers and the behaviour:

  1. Is unsolicited and unwelcomed;
  2. That the worker finds humiliating, intimidating, offensive,   or threatening;
  3. That any reasonable person would find humiliating, intimidating, offensive, or threatening, this behaviour must generally happen on more than one occasion and is subject to the “reasonable person” test.

What Workplace Harassment Is

The  workplace harassment types that are common in Australia include the following:

  • Continual ridicule and verbal abuse;
  • Incessant and unjustified complaints and criticisms about minor things;
  • Frequent threats of dismissal;
  • Humiliating or inappropriate things said or done to a worker via insults, sarcasm, gestures, and criticism;
  • Spreading malicious rumours or unfounded gossip about a worker;
  • Sabotage -failing to pass on messages, withholding or providing false information, hiding equipment or documents, or any action that seeks to get another worker dismissed or in trouble.

If you are being harassed  at work or discrimination is happening or has happened at work, you should complete a  workplace harassment incident report form and contact:

  • Your manager or supervisor to report the incident
  • Your health & safety officer
  • Your company’s human resources department
  • Your union
  • PK Simpson personal injury lawyers.

Visit the Unions and employer associations page (1) on the Fair Work Australia website to find registered unions in your industry.

What Workplace Harassment is Not 

If a boss or person in a position of power in an organisation takes reasonable management action in connection with a person’s employment, this is not considered harassment. This may include:

  • Giving valid instructions;
  • Expecting workers to carry out valid instructions
  • Establishing realistic performance standards; 
  • Asking for improvements to substandard work.

Workplace Harassment is Often Found:

  • Laterally: one worker harassing another;
  • Upwards: a worker harassing a boss, supervisor or manager or someone in a higher position;
  • Downwards:  a boss, supervisor or manager harassing a worker; 

What Other Workplace Behaviour is Harassing?

Any of the following could be classed as harassment if it relates to a person’s sex, race, age etc., depending on the circumstances:

  • Written, drawn, printed, or photographic material displayed in the workplace on computer screens, noticeboards, walls or doors, circulated by fax on paper or placed in a person’s work station or belongings;
  • Material on a computer, in an email, put on a blog, website, or social media;
  • Abusive comments, offensive jokes and gestures;
  • Isolating, ignoring, or segregating a worker or group
  • Initiations involving offensive or unwelcomed behaviour.

Addressing Workplace Harassment

Workplace health and safety is paramount. Most company HR departments and employers in Australia have workplace harassment guidelines, workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations, or a policy that includes a straightforward process for workers to make an internal, formal complaint to their employer. 

Policies may encourage conferences or mediation to resolve a complaint, but in serious harassment cases, management policies may allow an employer to investigate and take any necessary action.

Suppose you are subjected to harassment at work by a coworker/employee/ employer/customer. In that case, you should inform your employer and if you are not satisfied, contact our personal injury lawyers at PK Simpson to deal with your case. 

Is Harassment Outside the Workplace Illegal?

In NSW, it is against anti-discrimination law to harass a person because of their:

  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation;
  • If you are pregnant;
  • If you are breastfeeding;
  • Your race, background, colour, descent, nationality,  ethnic or ethno-religious background;
  • Age discrimination;
  • Your marital or domestic status;
  • Your homosexuality (perceived or actual);
  • Your disability (perceived or actual), present, past, or future;
  • Your transgender status (perceived or actual);
  • Your carer’s responsibilities (perceived or actual).

It is also illegal to harass someone because of any of the aspects mentioned above of your friends, relatives, workmates or associates. Be aware that usually, harassment is only illegal if done by someone over the age of 16. At PK Simpson, we can investigate your case and help you claim compensation. 

Workplace Harassment Lawyers

If you’ve been subjected to an unwelcome sexual advance by a boss or co worker, suffered a physical injury due to harassment and violence, or harassment at work has caused you a mental injury, you may be entitled to claim workers compensation. You have every right to make a compensation claim for personal injury that has occurred, and we can help you fill in your t form to claim compensation. If you’re searching online for “workplace harassment lawyers near me”, don’t scroll past PK Simpson.

The workplace harassment may be due to either your employer’s negligence in failing to provide a proper anti-harassment policy or a colleague, customer, client, manager or employer injuring you regardless of a policy. Also, if a group of individuals repeatedly behave unreasonably towards you at work, or you are harassed in work related events, call us at PK Simpson lawyers in Sydney on 1300 757 467. We can offer you legal advice, assess your case and begin your workers compensation claim or bring a workplace harassment lawsuit.


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