So what is Sexual Harassment?

Some employers do not understand what sexual harassment is and to be fair many ordinary New Zealanders do not understand what it is either. Some people seem to think that if the employee doesn’t constantly and loudly object to each and every objectionable action then they are accepting/tolerating the actions and therefore it is consensual and not sexual harassment. I went to the Employment New Zealand website to find out what constitutes sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment

An employee is sexually harassed if their employer (or a representative of their employer):

asks the employee for sex, sexual contact or other sexual activity, with a:
promise (it can be implied) of better treatment in their employment, or
a threat (it can be implied) either of worse treatment or about current or future job security
subjects (either directly or indirectly) the employee to behaviour that they don’t want or is offensive to them (even if they don’t let the employer or the employer’s representative know this) and which either is so significant or repeated that it has a negative effect on their employment, job performance or job satisfaction:
by using (in writing or speaking) sexual language, or
by using sexual visual material (eg pictures, diagrams, photos, videos, etc), or
through sexual physical behaviour.
Sexual harassment can happen to and by someone of any sex. It can be subtle or more obvious.

Whether a behaviour was sexual harassment is viewed objectively, considering whether the conduct was unwelcome or offensive, from the perspective of the complainant.

Examples of sexual harassment:

personally sexually offensive comments
sexual or smutty jokes
unwanted comments or teasing about a person’s sexual activities or private life
offensive hand or body gestures
physical contact such as patting, pinching or touching
provocative posters with a sexual connotation
persistent and unwelcome social invitations (or telephone calls or emails) from workmates at work or at home
hints or promises of preferential treatment in exchange for sex
threats of differential treatment if sexual activity is not offered
sexual assault and rape.


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