Reporting sexual harassment: Claims and remedies
Title: Reporting sexual harassment: Claims and remedies
Sexual harassment has been documented as a widespread and damaging phenomenon yet the specific patterns of behaviour reported in alleged sexual harassment cases and the factors influencing the lodgement of formal, legal complaints have received little attention. This two-stage study explored 632 cases of sexual harassment reported to a community advocacy organisation in Queensland, Australia. Two kinds of sexual harassment are distinguished: quid pro quo harassment (an exchange for sexual favours) and hostile environment harassment (sustained unwelcome overtures). Only 10 per cent of specialised assistance cases involved quid pro quo harassment, with the remainder categorised as hostile environment claims, including sexual remarks, physical contact and sexual gestures. Organisational responses to many of the allegations of sexual harassment were inadequate. The seriousness of many claims was also concerning, although the gravity of the harassment was not closely linked with the likelihood of a complaint being formally lodged. Most cases in one of three state/Commonwealth commissions involved a conciliation conference and financial settlement, averaging A$5289. The study has implications for women’s equal opportunity. Among these, the study suggests that complaints encountered long delays and received small settlements incommensurate with harm. This suggestion recognises the needs to search for other solutions to sexual harassment.