One in four sexually harassed in workplace as victimisation continues after a complaint

One in four women have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the past five years and women who speak out about sexual harassment at work are likely to continue to suffer after they make a complaint.

A report commissioned by the Human Rights Commission and launched this morning surveyed 2,002 people and found 45% of women and 16% of men have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the past five years.

The report found women who do complain are more likely to be labelled troublemakers by their colleagues, become ostracised and, in extreme cases, even demoted, with the number of victims of sexual harassment who suffer in the workplace after they complain jumping from 16% to 29% since 2003.

The number of women who suffer harassment and complain has fallen as a result, with only 20% making a formal complaint.

Targets of sexual harassment are most likely to be women under 40 and harassers are most likely to be male co-workers.

Women are at least five times more likely than men to have been harassed by a boss or employer.

Men harassing women accounts for more than half of all sexual harassment, while male harassment of men accounts for nearly a quarter.

The report found women working in health and community services, accommodation, cafe and restaurants, retail and education are most likely to suffer some form of sexual harassment.

The most common types of sexual harassment include sexually suggestive comments or jokes, inappropriate leering or staring, intrusive questions about physical appearance and sexually explicit emails or text messages.

After launching the report, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told SmartCompany it showed sexual harassment is widespread in Australian workplaces and progress in addressing it has stalled.

She says the low levels of official complaints made and the high level of victimisation for those that do bring a complaint was concerning.

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