Empowering victims of workplace sexual harassment

News story
WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr John Byrne spoke at the Restorative Justice - Empowering Victims conference held by the Department of Justice recently.
Last updated: 18 September 2023
Dr Byrne speaking in front of EOC banner

Dr Byrne spoke about how increased awareness of sexual harassment had improved workplace responses to victims' allegations.

He said the #MeToo movement that started over a decade ago has steadily built momentum by publicising inappropriate sexualised behaviour.

"In my opinion this has had an effect on reducing sexual harassment in the workplace," he said.

Dr Byrne went on to explain how the Commission's complaint process can provide restorative justice to victims of sexual and racial harassment. 

"If a complaint relates to a valid ground and area, such as sexual harassment in employment, the Equal Opportunity Act requires the Commission to accept and investigate the complaint," he said.

He said the Commission did not have the discretion to decline to accept a complaint, which is different to complaints made to the Police.

"Compensation for victims of a crime may not be provided if the alleged offender is not convicted, whereas the Commission process can allow restorative justice including compensation irrespective of a conviction through the conciliation process," he said.

Dr Byrne said it was quite common that a complainant to the Commission has found it impossible to continue to work for the employer and has resigned.

"The Commission's focus is then on restorative justice for that person," he said.