Sexual harassment​


Harassment and sexual harassment factsheet PDF 80KB

​​​​Examples of conciliated sexual harassment complaints​​

What does the law say about sexual harassment?

Anti-discrimination law defines sexual harassment as: 

  • unwanted sexual advances, or unwelcome requests for sexual favours; or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; and
  • in the circumstances, a reasonable person would have expected you to be offended, humiliated or intimidated by this behaviour.​​

See below for information about the types of behaviour that can constitute harassment.

When does this law apply?

The law against sexual harassment generally applies in five main areas of public life.

The areas in which the law applies are as follows:

  • in employment - when you apply for a job or for a licence or registration to perform a job, when you are at work, or when you leave a job

  • when you get, or try to get, most types of goods or services - for example, from shops, banks, lawyers, government departments, police, public transport, local councils, doctors, hospitals and other medical services, hotels, sporting venues and entertainment venues

  • when you apply to get into or are studying in any State educational institution, which includes any government school, college or university. Sexual harassment and harassment because of your race are also against the law in private educational institutions.

  • when you rent accommodation such as houses, units, flats, hotel or motel rooms and commercial premises

  • when you try to enter or join a registered club, or when you're inside one. A registered club is any club that sells alcohol or has gambling machines.

Sexual harassment is also against the law if it happens in any of the following circumstances:

  • when buying or selling real estate

  • when taking part in sport - this covers people taking part in organised sporting competitions, coaching or being coached in organised sporting competitions and officiating at an organised sporting event

  • in the administration of NSW State laws and programs.

What types of behaviour could be sexual harassment?

Depending on the circumstances, any of the following could be sexual harassment:

  • staring or leering in a sexual manner
  • unwelcome wolf whistling
  • comments about a person's physical appearance or sexual characteristics
  • sexual or physical contact, such as slapping, kissing touching, hugging or massaging
  • displaying or circulating sexual material, for example on a noticeboard or by email
  • repeated sexual invitations when the person has refused similar invitations before
  • initiation ceremonies involving unwelcome sexually related behaviour
  • intrusive questions about sexual activity
  • sexual assault (also a crime under the Crimes Act).

What are my rights at work?

Most sexual harassment that is against the anti-discrimination laws happens at work.

Your employer must take 'all reasonable steps' to make sure that there is no sexual harassment in the workplace. They must do their best to make sure that you are not sexually harassed by your supervisor, your workmates or your customers or clients. They must do this whether you are full-time or part-time, permanent or casual.

In this context, all reasonable steps may include:

  • having a clearly defined policy that sexual harassment is not acceptable, and procedures for addressing harassment when it occurs

  • making sure all employees know about this policy, what constitutes sexual harassment and the procedures for addressing it

  • ensuring that the policy and procedures are followed.

Of course, if you are happy with a particular type of behaviour or you want to have a relationship with someone you work with, that is OK - as long as it doesn't interfere with your work or any standards of workplace behaviour that your employer has set. ​