Workplace Sexual Harassment

Workplace Sexual Harassment – During a training session on sexual harassment prevention & investigation I was asked about the reasonable steps that should be taken to prevent and/or address SH in the workplace.

1. Have a well drafted policy that defines SH and the organisation’s behavioural expectations, how to report SH & consequences for breaching the policy.

2. Make all of your staff aware of the policy, what it is & where to find it.

3. Train your staff on the policy including what is SH, the expectations, what victims can do, what witnesses should do & consequences for breaching the policy.

4. Have a trusted mechanism in place for reporting of SH, how to report & who to. Trusted means the person reporting SH will be listened to with an open mind & action will be taken.

5. Have a trusted mechanism in place for investigating SH complaints, in this case trusted means a timely & professional response/investigation to complaints.

The most important thing for your staff is to have trust in your processes.

If you need help with any of these point please contact me – phil@awpti.com.au or via www.awpti.com.au   

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide

Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations

www.awpti.com.au
http://awpti.com.au/investigations/
http://awpti.com.au/training/

  

 

#sexualharassment #workplaceinvestigation #sexualharassmentinvestigation #workplacetraining #sexualharassmenttraining

Workplace Sexual Harassment Training – As a HR professional, manager or business owner what can you do if you think that there may be a problem but you don’t have any actual complaints or any evidence on which to base an investigation or take action?

The answer may be training and this applies to bullying, harassment, discrimination and any other forms of misconduct.

Training is an effective way of putting your staff on notice that poor behaviour will not tolerated in your organisation, but what needs to be included?

A clear opening message: Often as part of this sort of workshop/session during my introduction I will say word to effect;

“In addition to being a trainer, I am a workplace investigator, I spend a lot of time investigating complaints of sexual harassment/bullying………… and part of the reason for this session is to let you know about what not to do, unless of course you want to be sitting opposite me or someone like me being interviewed.”

I find this works quite well and gets a lot of positive feedback from HR managers.

A clear definition about what is and what is not sexual harassment: It is important that your employees understand what constitutes sexual harassment or bullying etc and how those boundaries are applicable to your business/organisation and how they relate to your policies and Code of Conduct

A section on the myths surrounding sexual harassment: This section allows your employees to discuss and comment about many commonly held myths about what is and what is not appropriate behaviour. This article provides more details

A section on consequences: Your training program should include a section clearly detailing the potential consequences for breaching your policies and behaving in a sexually harassing manner.

A section of what you should do if you are a victim or a witness: It is important that victims know that they should and can report the matter.  This means ensuring that you have a trusted and responsive reporting mechanism and/or HR department. It is also important for witnesses to know that they should not just stand by and do nothing and for witnesses to image if it were them.

Legal responsibilities: This final section should cover the law and cases that are relevant to illustrate the potential and actual legal consequences of sexual harassment.

Workplace Sexual Harassment Training  – Other articles that may be of interest

Stopping workplace bullying harassment sexual harassment
Sexual harassment – duty of care

Workplace Sexual Harassment Training  – AWPTI can provide interesting and engaging training programs designed to assist you to inform and manage your employees. We have a specialised workplace sexual harassment training program. More details here

We also have an understanding sexual harassment manual available for purchase, for details or to order

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations

www.awpti.com.au
http://awpti.com.au/investigations/
http://awpti.com.au/training/

The author Phil O’Brien is a highly experienced and skilled workplace investigator and trainer who can take the stress out of conducting workplace investigations into bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and other forms of misconduct.

You can contact me on 02 9674 4279 or phil@awpti.com.au

This is general information only. It does not replace advice from a qualified workplace investigator in your state or territory.  It is recommended that should you encounter issues in the workplace that you seek advice from suitability qualified and experienced workplace investigators.

This is general information only. It does not replace advice from a qualified legal professional or workplace investigator in your state or territory.  It is recommended that should you encounter issues in the workplace that you seek advice from suitability qualified and experienced legal professional or workplace investigators.

Sexual Harassment Training – it is apparent that the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace is not going away.

As an employer what are you duties and responsibilities?

A recent article suggested that sexual harassment should be recognised as a workplace safety issue more details here

The Work, Health & Safety Act imposes a responsibility (Duty of Care) on employers or persons conducting a business to take all reasonable steps to ensure that there is nothing in the workplace that could cause an employee to suffer an injury or to contract an illness, this includes taking reasonable steps to eliminate and/or respond to workplace sexual harassment and bullying.

Courts have found that workplace sexual harassment and bullying can lead to the development of psychological injuries such as anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD and in the worse cases lead to suicide.

If a complaint of sexual harassment is received, failure to act could result in a finding that there has been a breach of a duty of care and can result in a claim of negligence and the potential for costly litigation and large compensation payouts, for more details

To ensure that you satisfy your Duty of Care it is strongly recommended that you must have;

  • A policy that makes it clear that your business will not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and will take all reasonable steps to minimise the likelihood of it occurring?
  • Training to support your policy so that all you employees know what the behavioural expectations of the organisation are?
  • Training that ensures your employees understand what constitutes sexual harassment?
  • A trusted process by which employees who feel that they have been sexual harassment can report the matter?
  • A professional and timely procedure by which reports of sexual harassment are investigated?
  • The ability to outsource sexual harassment complaints for investigation by professional and expert workplace investigators if required.
  • Training for your managers and HR staff to ensure that they are able to identify behaviours in the workplace that could lead to complaints and take pro-active steps to deal with such matters.
  • Training for your managers and HR staff to ensure that they can investigate matters of sexual harassment in a timely and professional manner?

Many employers are faced with questions around, what sort of training, how will it be delivered, who will deliver it.

AWPTI can assist you in a number of ways;

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide

Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations

www.awpti.com.au
http://awpti.com.au/investigations/
http://awpti.com.au/training/
http://awpti.com.au/hr-products/

Workplace Investigation Terminations Unfair dismissal

The recent decision of Jay Higgins Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd T/A Coles at the Fair Work Commission highlighted the importance for employers about being clear about the reason for the dismissal.

In this matter, Coles submitted that the explicit text messages sent by Mr Higgins resulted in a serious breach of the Code and Equal Opportunity Policy (EO Policy). Specifically, that by sending the explicit text messages to his supervisor Mr Lacey, Mr Higgins engaged in behaviour that was considered to be harassment due to its offensive and sexual nature. Coles submitted this resulted in a serious breach of his duty to treat everyone with dignity, courtesy and respect.

Mr Higgins submitted that when taking into account the context in which the text messages were sent, it could not be satisfied that he engaged in conduct amounting to sexual harassment towards Mr Lacey. Mr Higgins relied on the section of the Equal Opportunity Policy that states as follows:

“Behaviour that is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect is not likely to be sexual harassment, as long as the interaction is consensual, welcome or reciprocated.”

Mr Higgins submitted that he and Mr Lacey had a personal friendship outside of work, and that the explicit text messages were sent on a personal level to Mr Lacey on private phones outside of work hours. Mr Higgins submitted he had sent messages of a similar nature to Mr Lacey in the past, and Mr Lacey had found such images amusing. Mr Higgins submitted that the images he sent on 5 September 2016 were not unwanted, but rather were endorsed by Mr Lacey. Mr Higgins also submitted that Mr Lacey’s response to the first text message on 5 September encouraged him to send further text messages.

When the manager responded negatively to the image of a penis in a bike chain, Mr Higgins did not sent any further images.

As a result, the commissioner found the conduct did not fall within Coles’ definition of sexual harassment, which excluded behaviour based on friendship as long as it was “consensual, welcome or reciprocated”.

But he found sending such explicit images was “clearly conduct inconsistent with the requirement of the code to treat others with dignity, courtesy and respect”.

Together with Mr Higgins’ lack of contrition and aggressive comments to his supervisor after he was warned over the images, he concluded Coles had a valid reason for dismissal and found the dismissal was not unfair.

Commissioner Simpson held that “The fact that Mr Higgins refused to acknowledge that this conduct could ever be inappropriate if sent from a private mobile phone, leads me to accept Coles’ submission that it cannot reasonably hold confidence in Mr Higgins’ ability to comply with its core values. I am satisfied Mr Higgin’s misconduct was serious.”

In this case it was found that Coles had a valid reason for the dismissal other than the initially alleged sexual harassment. Had Cole gone alone with the sexual harassment allegation the outcome may have been different.

Lesson for employers

  • Be careful when investigating matters such as sexual harassment that the behaviour is consistent with the definition of sexual harassment.
  • Be careful that organisational policies reflect the accepted or legislated definition of misconduct, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.
  • If you are unsure call in an expert – http://awpti.com.au/investigations/
  • Ensure that all employees undertake training in what is and what is not misconduct, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment – http://awpti.com.au/employee-training/

Workplace Investigation Terminations Unfair dismissal

AWPTI – workplace investigation Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Misconduct investigations, bullying investigations, harassment investigations & sexual harassment investigations, complaint investigations, grievance investigations, discrimination investigations

www.awpti.com.au
http://awpti.com.au/investigations/
http://awpti.com.au/training/