Victoria Legal Aid

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is against the law when it occurs in employment and in other areas of public life.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome or unwanted sexual behaviour. This includes anything that makes you or another person feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or humiliated. It is against the law when it occurs in employment and in other areas of public life.

Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, written or other conduct. It can be a single incident, or repeated behaviour. It can include:

  • pictures or photos
  • comments
  • emails or social media like Facebook or TikTok
  • suggestive behaviour
  • physical acts, such as deliberately brushing up against someone
  • requests for dates
  • unwanted sexual touching
  • staring
  • wolf-whistling
  • dirty jokes
  • requests for sex.

When sexual harassment is against the law

Sexual harassment is against the law when it happens in certain areas of public life. 'Public life' includes:

  • at work
  • working as a volunteer
  • at school, university or TAFE
  • in shops
  • when buying or selling goods or services
  • in clubs
  • activities you participate in, such as sports.

Sexual harassment at work – your employer’s responsibilities

The Fair Work Act 2009 as been amendedExternal Link to prohibit (or ban) sexual harassment in connection with work, including in the workplace. These changes apply from 6 March 2023 and expand the previous protections around sexual harassment in the workplace.

If you are being harassed at work, it is your employer's responsibility to do everything within reason to make your workplace free from sexual harassment.

It is also against the law for you to be victimised because you have made a complaint about sexual harassment.

From December 2022, anew positive duty for employersExternal Link to eliminate workplace sex discrimination is in place. This requires employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to take reasonable and proportionate actionExternal Link to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace or in connection to work, including preventing:

  • sex discrimination
  • sex-based harassment
  • conduct that amounts to subjecting a person to a hostile workplace environment on the ground of sex
  • victimisation.

While there is a 12-month transition period before compliance will be enforced (starting December 2023), workplaces are urged to implement changes to prevent sexual harassment now.

How we can help

Do you feel you have been treated unfairly at work or in other areas of public life?

Our specialist sexual harassment and discrimination law services can help you understand your legal options.

Our specialised team of lawyers provide advice and representation to eligible people experiencing discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.

Sexual harassment law is complex, and it can be confusing to know which option is the best one for you. If you complain to one place, sometimes you cannot change your mind later and complain somewhere else. It is best to speak to our Equality Law Program, which provides specialist sexual harassment and discrimination law services. The team can provide information and advice before lodging a complaint.

Our legal help team will be able to connect you with our specialist sexual harassment services.

Contact our Equality Law Program directly:

Send an email to including:

  • Name:
  • DOB:
  • Address:
  • Contact number:
  • Email:
  • Any language or other support needs:
  • Description of your legal problem:
  • Any urgency or time limits that may apply:

If you are making this referral on behalf of someone else, please also include:

  • Referrer name:
  • Referrer organisation:
  • Referrer contact number:
  • Referrer email:

Other support

Sometimes sexual harassment can involve a sexual assault, stalking or blackmail, or other criminal offences. If you think that this is the case, you should contact the police. You can seek advice and assistance from our Specialist Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Law Services in addition to reporting sexual assault and other criminal offences to the police.

Find out how you can get other support for discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 10 May 2023

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