By Greg Kelton
The profile of a serial sexual harasser is an older male boss who often underpays wages, starts false rumours about their targets and pressures the women into drinking or taking drugs, a study claims.
The research, by SA Unions' Young Workers Legal Service, found most of the women worked for a small employer on a casual basis, while clients from larger workplaces were in the minority.
They were subjected to inappropriate body contact, including forcible kissing and touching of breasts and other body parts. Some feared they would be raped.
The study found sexual harassment resulted in the women feeling "sad, angry, depressed, uncomfortable, anxious, fearful, stressed, disappointed, intimidated, exploited and isolated".
Based on an analysis of 44 case files, it found harassers had access to people's personal details and continued to harass the women outside work.
The results of the survey will be presented to a Women and IR conference in Darwin tomorrow and Friday.
The survey's release follows the move by Kristy Fraser-Kirk to lodge an unprecedented $37 million sexual misconduct action against David Jones and its former chief executive, Mark McInnes, over allegations that he was a workplace bully and a serial sexual harasser.
The new report says harassers are generally older than their targets and in some cases the age gap is "profound". "Most of our clients who did attempt to deal with the harassment in the workplace were not taken seriously or kept safe," the report states.
"By the time the women sought help, many felt disempowered and traumatised, and a significant number chose not to go ahead with a complaint." The report proposes that certain requirements be imposed on employers who have sexually harassed workers or who have not taken steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
"A register of some kind should be developed which enables a government body to monitor and educate harassing employers on an ongoing basis," the report states.
"We also believe the law as it stands does not adequately deter workplace harassment.
"The introduction of fines or criminal sanctions could be effective in sending a message that sexual harassment is taken seriously and can no longer be tolerated."
Article from The Advertiser, August 9, 2010.