What are My Legal Options if I’m Facing Sexual Harassment?
Some of our clients come to us because they are not in the position to make an internal report about sexual harassment. Conversely, they may have reported the conduct to their company but no action was taken. In this blog, we explore your legal options outside of your workplace to make out a claim for sexual harassment and obtain appropriate relief.
What are the most common routes of intervention?
You can approach the Fair Work Commission, your state or territory anti-discrimination tribunal or the Australian Human Rights Commission. You can file the complaint online through a form and you do not need a lawyer to do this for you.
In that situation, these organisations will provide a copy of your claim to your employer to give them the opportunity to respond and try to mediate the matter. You can participate in this mediation without representation or alternatively, we can help you complete the application form and represent you at any conciliation or mediation process.
Many of our clients come to us when the employment relationship has broken down and therefore require our help to negotiate an exit to their employment. Sometimes, people don’t want the conduct to be investigated. They would prefer to find a way to stop the conduct and move on to a new workplace. We can help to write a “without prejudice” letter to your employer to offer to settle complaints in exchange for an exit payment.
If you have been sexually harassed at work and it has psychologically affected you, speak to your GP about it. Get them to keep records because of the conduct. If you are unfit for work because of the sexual harassment, you can ask your doctor about starting a workers compensation claim.
All that requires is that your doctor gives you a certificate of capacity that you can provide to your employer and it requires them to notify their insurer that you intend to start a claim.
If you have been fired because you made a complaint about sexual harassment, you have several options.
- An unfair dismissal; or
- A general protections claim; or
- A complaint to your state or territory anti-discrimination tribunal or before the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Your employer cannot fire you from your job or take adverse action against you because you made a complaint of sexual harassment. You can start a claim in different jurisdictions around Australia. If that is the case, have a chat with us so that we can advise you on where to start your claim.
What kind of compensation would I get for pursuing the case?
When most people come to us for a case of sexual harassment, they often ask us what is the right remedy for their situation. It may not always be about money. You may want the conduct to stop so you can get on with the job. You may want an apology. You may want training and disciplinary action to be taken against the perpetrator.
It may be the case that you need to leave the workplace and that you need compensation while you look for other work , this is what lawyers call an “economic loss”, so you can be compensated for a loss in wages.
You can be compensated for general damages, which recognise the damage caused by sexual harassment on your enjoyment of life. However, it can be tricky to determine what would be fair compensation based on the severity of the conduct and the effect that it’s had on someone’s life.
Recently, the court case of Hughes v Hill provides some insight on how to quantify the impact of sexual harassment on a person’s life. We describe the full story in our previous blog here. The court awarded $120,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages because the perpetrator had exploited the power imbalance between him and the complainant and used confidential information inappropriately to advance his case.
At Resolution123, we can help you negotiate with your employer directly whether through a “without prejudice” letter or conciliation and determine your next steps in the claim. If appropriate, we are happy to take your case to court to obtain the best outcome. If you have any questions, use our eligibility questionnaire or book a telephone consult with us today.