Despite the growing trends of social awareness around acceptable behaviour, unfortunately, a number of women, and men, experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment and assault can have huge impacts on the well-being of the victim and can leave them with severe psychological injuries. 

These injuries can take a toll on the victim, and as a result, can lead to huge financial losses such as: loss of employment, loss of income due to time off, medical and psychological treatment expenses and many other factors. Therefore, the law in Queensland seeks to protect workers who suffer sexual harassment and assault. 

What is Sexual Harassment and Assault?

Sexual assault is an egregious criminal act that includes physically violating another worker. For example, touching another person sexually without consent, forcing or coercing an individual to engage in sexual acts without consent or forcing an individual to witness a sexual act without consent. 

Sexual harassment is broader but can also be damaging for the victim. Sexual harassment refers to a range of behaviours that impede on another workers feeling of safety. For example, inappropriate sexual comments, unwelcome comments about someone’s appearance, staring in a sexual manner and unwelcome sexually explicit communication. 

Sexual Harassment / Assault in the Workplace

All employers hold a duty of care to their employers to protect them from harm. Sexual harassment and assault can happen in the workplace in a range of circumstances. Outside of work premises, issues that occur at work functions or parties, at social events relating to work or even at professional development training, all classify as sexual harassment in the workplace.  

In an instance where a worker has been sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace, the victim can apply for a workers compensation claim through WorkCover Queensland. The injury suffered from a sexual harassment or assault may be psychological or physical in nature, however both types of injuries are valid to lodge a claim with WorkCover Queensland. 

The WorkCover Process

Once a worker has lodged a claim with WorkCover, they will be entitled to a number of benefits once the claim is accepted. These benefits may include funding for treatment and paying a portion of the workers wage whilst they are absent from work to recover. 

Eventually, WorkCover will issue a notice of assessment. It is critical to receive legal advice on your notice of assessment, as a personal injury lawyer will be able to advise on whether you should accept the offered lump sum amount, or if your case could have a common law option. A common law claim for damages allows for a worker to recuperate the damages they have suffered from their workplace injury, such as loss of past and future earnings, pain and suffering money and the costs of any medical assistance. 

Other options

If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault in the workplace and are unable to lodge a WorkCover claim there may be other options available. For instance, institutional abuses claim for workers under 18, and criminal law avenues for all workers. Due to this, it is vital to garner the advice of a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following any form of workplace injury. 

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