Workplace Sexual Harassment

Legal Rights & Obligations

gavelA law called the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (POHA) provides help in cases of stalking and harassment.

POHA only applies to actions carried out on or after 15 November 2014.

This page provides information to help you decide:

  • Do you face harassment and/or stalking covered by POHA?
  • What help can you get and how?

This page provides general information. If you need assistance with your case, please contact the Sexual Assault Care Centre.

Contents

  1. Do you face harassment and/or stalking covered by POHA?
  2. What help can you get and how?
  3. Types of POHA court orders
  4. How to apply for court orders


Do you face harassment and/or stalking covered by POHA?

Harassment:

This involves threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviours or communications.

Such behaviours may be actionable if a) it is meant to cause you harassment, alarm or distress or b) is likely to cause you these feelings and you heard or saw the offending behaviours or words.

The other party may defend themselves by showing that the conduct was reasonable.

POHA also prohibits this behaviour if it is meant to (and is likely to) provoke violence against you or someone else, or make you believe that such violence will be used.

Some examples of harassment are:

  • Your co-worker makes graphic and insulting sexual comments to you or others, intending that you will overhear and be distressed.
  • Your classmate makes a threatening Facebook post about you, which you and all fellow classmates can see. Someone shows it to you and you are alarmed.

Contact SACC to find out more.

 

Unlawful stalking

You could be facing unlawful stalking if someone does one or more of the following:

  • Following you
  • Sending communications to or about you, or pretending to be from you
  • Entering or loitering your home, workplace or anywhere else you frequent
  • Interfering with your property
  • Giving or sending material (e.g. gifts) to you, leaving it where you might find it, or bringing it to your attention
  • Keeping you under watch

You could also be the target of stalking if these acts are done to someone you are likely to care about (e.g. a family member).

This conduct can be unlawful stalking if it’s done more than once. It can count even if it’s only once, if it’s for a long time (e.g. video recording you over several days), or the person has been convicted of stalking you before.

POHA protects you against this conduct if it causes you harassment, alarm or distress and the stalker intend or knows (or should know) this.

The stalker may have some defences – e.g. their conduct is intended to prevent crime.


What help can you get and how?

You can choose one or more of the following options:

  • Make a police report. Find out more about making police reports here. POHA offences are “non-seizable”, meaning that the police would ask you to make a Magistrate’s complaint.
  • File a criminal complaint in the State Courts (Magistrate’s Court) to summon the harasser to attend court. If no settlement is reached with the harasser and you wish to charge the harasser in court, you will need a lawyer for this. SACC can provide preliminary legal counselling. If found guilty, the harasser will face punishment (jail, fine).
  • You can sue a harasser or stalker in court for compensation. You will need a lawyer for this. SACC can provide preliminary legal counselling.
  • You can apply for POHA court orders that require the harasser or stalker to stop their behaviour (e.g. stop contacting you, take down online postings).

A SACC befriender can go with you to the police station or to the court, to provide emotional and technical support throughout the process. Please contact us to ask for a befriender.

 

For information on how to make a POHA court order, click here.