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REIQ Journal : December January 2009
20 INDUSTRY PRACTICE Equal opportunity legislation in all states (and federally) makes employers liable for acts of employees that constitute sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can be constituted by anything from an off-colour joke, to an ill thought out Kris Kringle or Secret Santa gift, to dance floor hi-jinks. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has published a Code of Practice on sexual harassment, which includes the following definition: “Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances. “Sexual harassment can take various forms. It can involve: Unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing; Staring or leering; Suggestive comments or jokes; Sexually explicit pictures, screen savers or posters; Unwanted invitations to go out on dates or requests for sex; Intrusive questions about an employee’s private life or body; Unnecessary familiarity; Insults or taunts based on your sex; Sexually explicit emails or SMS messages; Accessing sexually explicit internet sites; or Behaviour which would also be an offence under the criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications. Employers can only avoid liability for the acts of their employees if they ensure that they take reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour. REIQ Journal December 2008/January 2009