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A Bad Business
(Review of sexual harassment in employment complaints 2002)

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Fact Sheets: Key Findings | The Complaints Process | Legal
Definition of Sexual Harassment
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Media Release

Sexual harassment: A Bad Business

Image: Pru Goward speaking at the launch of A Bad BusinessA
paper released today by Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru
Goward on sexual harassment in employment shows that this unlawful
behaviour continues to be a significant concern for women in the workplace.
Sexual harassment also has significant costs for employers.

A Bad Business: Review of Sexual
harassment in employment complaints 2002
reviews 152 complaints
of sexual harassment in employment finalised by the Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) in 2002.

“Ninety-five per cent of the
complaints of sexual harassment in employment that HREOC finalised
in 2002 were made by women. The data showed that most reported harassment
occurred in the first 12 months of employment, was allegedly committed
by a more senior person in the organisation and involved multiple
forms of harassment.”

However, perhaps the most shocking
finding of this paper is the impact of sexual harassment on women’s
employment - three out of four complainants were known to have either
left the organisation or gone on leave.

“This has clear implications
for the workplace and employers as it demonstrates the cost of sexual
harassment to their business through employee absenteeism, employee
turnover and the associated recruitment and training costs, as well
as disruption and loss of staff morale in the workplace,” the
Commissioner said. “It also compounds the significance of this
human rights violation for women.”

The paper shows that sexual harassment
remains a concern for all forms of business, regardless of size, location
or industry.

Commissioner Goward said that after
almost 20 years of Australian legislation outlawing sexual harassment,
only one in three respondent employers had a sexual harassment policy
that appeared to be fully implemented.

“Women are reporting this
harassment in their workplace, and employers must be prepared to respond.
This means not only having a sexual harassment policy in place, but
also ensuring its effective operation through internal complaints
processes, ensuring that managers and supervisors are prepared and
able to handle complaints of sexual harassment, and training staff
about the company policy,” Commissioner Goward said.

Pru Goward, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, with Nareen Young - Director, NSW Working Women's Centre and Sally Moyle - Director, Sex Discrimination Unit, HREOC at the launch of A Bad Business“This
will help to limit an employer’s liability for any harassment
that does occur, and also makes smart business sense by creating a
professional and productive workplace in which people are treated
respectfully.”

This paper is the first part of
a suite of publications on sexual harassment that will be released
by the Commission in 2004.

Media Contact: Paul Oliver
(02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347


This media release is
also available for download in PDF Document for DownloadPDF and Word Document for DownloadWord formats.


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Last
updated: 12 November 2003