There has been a noticeable increase in the number of allegations of sexual harassment over the past 2 years. This trend, commonly attributed to the publicity around high profile cases (ie. David Jones), has been reported by employment law specialists across Australia.
Employers need to be aware that the risk of sexual harassment or discrimination claims has increased significantly.
"Not just men harassing women in our modern workplace"
And it is not just traditional cross gender harassment in modern workplaces (traditionally male harassment towards women). Australian workplaces are seeing a significant increase in same-sex sexual harrassment. The problem became so bad for one banking call centre in Melbourne that the employer found it difficult to attract and retain hetrosexual male staff.
The issue doesn't have to be about 'mega-dollar claims' to be a significant risk. In many instances, the employer receiving a complaint of sexual harassment has never had to field such an issue before, and is starting from scratch on the necessary steps and the various risks which arise. Each situation is different and requires very careful handling, as the employer is at risk of a discrimination claim by the person claiming to have been harassed, but at the same time may face unfair dismissal proceedings or other claims in relation to the discipline, or termination of the employment, of the alleged offender.