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The employer is almost always responsible

Discrimination and sexual harassment are extremely serious, and can result in expensive litigation for businesses, and can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.

As an employer, you can be held vicariously liable for the actions of your staff, which means you will the one footing the bill if your workers are found to have engaged in discrimination or sexual harassment.


Discrimination happens when someone is treated less favourably than others based on a particular attribute.

Those attributes can include:

  • race
  • colour
  • ethnic origin
  • sex or gender
  • sexuality or sexual orientation
  • religion
  • age (young or old)
  • physical or mental impairment or disability
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • trade union activity
  • political opinion

Workplace discrimination is unlawful, and can happen when someone is employed, or on work experience, or is applying for a job.

It also applies to contractors and volunteers.

As an employer, you can not discriminate against employees, for example, by not giving them a job or a promotion because they are pregnant, or because they have a physical impairment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is any uninvited, unwelcome, or unwanted behaviour that is sexual in nature, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.

It does not need to be repeated or on-going for it to be unlawful.

Both men and women can be affected by sexual harassment.

Examples can include:

  • any unwelcome touching, no matter how minor
  • insults or taunts that are sexual in nature
  • staring or leering
  • sexually suggestive jokes or comments
  • intrusive questions about your private life
  • displaying posters of a sexual nature
  • sending sexually explicit emails or text messages or inappropriate advances on social media
  • repeated unwanted requests to go out on dates or requests for sex

It is important to know that sexual harassment can happen in the work environment, like an office, or a factory or a work site, but it can also happen anywhere else that is work-related, including hotels, restaurants, bars, taxis, or function centres.

It can also happen on social media, or via text messages.

How to protect yourself from claims of discrimination and sexual harassment

As an employer, you can protect yourself from claims of discrimination and sexual harassment if you can prove that you have taken all reasonable steps to prevent it, for example, by implementing formal workplace training, and having clear sexual harassment policies in place.

More information

If you would like more information about discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and vilification, please visit our Discrimination Claims website by clicking here.

What to do if you are facing a claim of discrimination or sexual harassment

If you are facing a claim of discrimination or sexual harassment, our team of experts at Employer Advisors can advise you of your options and the best way to move forward so you can resolve the matter as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

We are open from 8:00am to 6:00pm (Queensland time) Monday to Friday, but will make appointments after hours as well by arrangement.

Please call Employer Advisors on

1300 853 837


Contact us here


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