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Unfair treatment, discrimination or harassment at work

Sexual harassment at work

Sexual harassment by employers or other people in authority

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 103, 108

If your employer or a manager or supervisor sexually harasses you, you may be able to raise a personal grievance against them. In this context, sexual harassment is where the other person:

  • asks you for sex or some form of sexual activity while either promising preferential treatment or threatening worse treatment or dismissal if you refuse, or
  • subjects you to unwelcome or offensive behaviour through words or physical behaviour of a sexual nature, and this has a negative effect on your employment, job performance or job satisfaction. It’s irrelevant whether or not you told the person harassing you that their behaviour was unwelcome or offensive.

Sexual harassment by co-workers, customers or clients

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 103, 108, 117, 118

You may also have a personal grievance against your employer for sexual harassment if one of your co-workers or one of your employer’s customers or clients sexually harasses you and your employer doesn’t take the necessary action. (For what sexual harassment means in this context, see above “Sexual harassment by employers or other people in authority”.)

If you’re sexually harassed by a co-worker, customer or client, you can complain to your employer. Your employer must then investigate your complaint. If the employer is reasonably satisfied that your complaint is well-founded, they must take all possible steps to stop the harassment happening again.

If the harassment happens again after you’ve complained, and your employer hasn’t taken steps to prevent it, you can bring a personal grievance against your employer.

What should I do if I experience sexual harassment in the workplace?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 112

If you suffer sexual harassment in the workplace you can bring a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act or you can complain to the Human Rights Commission under the Human Rights Act (see the chapter “Discrimination”).

You can’t do both. If you decide to go through the Employment Relations Act you must raise your personal grievance within 90 days. On the other hand, you have more time to complain to the Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission also covers a wider group of workers than the Employment Relations Act, including voluntary workers, self-employed and pre-employment situations.

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