What is unlawful harassment?

Under Federal and State legislation, unlawful harassment occurs when someone is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex; disability; sexual preference; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation. It can also happen if someone is working in a ‘hostile’ – or intimidating – environment.

Harassment can include behaviour such as:

  • telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups;
  • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails;
  • displaying offensive or pornographic posters or screen savers;
  • making derogatory comments or taunts about someone’s race or religion; and
  • asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including their sex life.

(Information for Employers, Good practice, good business: Eliminating Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace, accessed from the Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014)