Sexual Harassment – Can be Difficult to Define

Sexual Harassment – Can be Difficult to Define

A recent sexual harassment claim to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal of South Australia by a magistrates clerk against a former magistrate shows that cases of sexual harassment can be difficult to define.

The allegations made by the the female clerk centred around incidents that occurred while she and the magistrate were travelling. They included:

  • inviting her to eat lunch and dinner with him
  • inviting her to come to his room for drinks after dinner
  • inviting her to swim in the hotel pool in her underwear
  • Suggesting that spanking could be a a form of punishment for mistakes in court.

Interestingly, some of the conduct was found to have occurred but it was deemed not be sexual in nature. What was critical here was the total context of the banter and actions between the 2 individuals and not just look at 1 piece in isolation. The court took this into account when it found the conduct was not sexual because the context was plausible and non-sexual.

This demonstrates how difficult it can be to judge these sort of situations and why advice from HR Central, who have am abundance of experience in these matters, can help you reach the best outcome with the information available.

Michael O'Shaughnessy

Michael is a specialist in all things HR. With vast HR experience in the USA and Australia, Michael brings a wealth of knowledge and advice to HR Central. When he's not blogging for HR Central you can find him out for dinner in one of Melbourne's newest restaurants.

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