Sexual harassment worst at executive level

by 11 Nov 2008

THE WORST perpetrators of sexual discrimination are more likely to be at executive or management level.

Western Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Yvonne Henderson, said the commission has seen a recent increase in sexual harassment cases and that the complaints have been made after the employee had no success in tackling the issue within their workplace.

“Some complainants have stated that their employer did have a grievance procedure, however it was either not followed or, if so, the employee became isolated in the workplace and retribution occurred,” said Henderson. “In a number of other cases employees are being told not to bother about filing an internal complaint because that is just the behaviour expected of the harasser.”

Henderson said these developments have highlighted the fact that some workplaces are still not treating sexual harassment as a serious.

According to Harmers Workplace Lawyers, recent cases of complaints of sexual discrimination and harassment show a significant rise in the level of compensation payouts, prompting a tightening of companies’ Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies and training to ensure their reach is extended to the company’s most senior executives.

Meanwhile, compensation payouts have also increased. Emma Pritchard, Partner at Harmers, said that recent cases, including the Christina Rich (former PwC executive) case settled earlier this year, show a definite increase in the amounts being claimed as courts recognise the nature of the complaint itself, the workplace environment, the complainant’s career and future earnings, the handling of the complaint (including potential for victimisation) and the complainant’s quality of life.

Pritchard also observed that many of the recent EEO claims are being made against senior managers and directors individually, suggesting that EEO policy and training is not being taken up by senior executives.


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