Are Comments Under The Guise Of Humour – Sexual Harassment?

Are Comments Under The Guise Of Humour – Sexual Harassment?

Written by Jonathan Mamaril

Humour is a powerful tool that can help break the ice, ease tensions and bring people together. However, when it comes to jokes or comments of a sexual nature made in the workplace, there’s no laughing matter.

Such behaviour can constitute sexual harassment and create a toxic work environment that makes employees feel uncomfortable, unsafe and disrespected. In this article, we will explore whether comments made under the guise of humor should be considered as sexual harassment based on a recent case decided by the Fair Work Commission. We’ll also look at other legal issues HR needs to consider and to ensure they maintain a safe place of work free from (or at least the minimisation of) psychosocial risks and hazards related to inappropriate conduct in any form.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination that involves unwelcome behaviour or conduct of a sexual nature. It can take many forms, including physical touching, suggestive comments or jokes, displays of sexually explicit images or videos, and unwanted advances. The key elements in determining whether behaviour constitutes sexual harassment is whether:

  • it is unwelcome conduct
  • sexual in nature
  • that a reasonable person would be offended, humiliated and/or intimidated

In Australia, sexual harassment is unlawful under both federal and state laws. Employers have a legal obligation to provide their employees with a safe place of work free from any form of sexual harassment. This includes taking proactive measures to prevent and address incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. The new changes in Psychosocial Risks and Hazards under Workplace Health and Safety in most jurisdictions in Australia require a positive obligation to do so. 

Read more at NB Employment Law

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