Harassment by bosses an alarming problem

A South Australian study released last week has shown an alarming pattern of harassment by men in positions of authority against young women employees. In what SA Unions believes to be an Australia first, young women under 30 were surveyed by the South Australian Young Workers Legal Service about instances of sexual harassment in their workplace - and the results are confronting. 

Among the case studies and key conclusions:

  • Harassers are almost exclusively male bosses, managers, company directors and business owners.
  • Harassers are commonly older than their targets - in some cases the age gap was "profound" with harasser's targets the same age as their own children.
  • Harasser's access to information about their target can lead to intrusion and even stalking.
  • Harassment is sometimes accompanied by mistreatment and abuse such as underpayment of wages, fallacious rumours, pressure to take drugs and unwarranted criticism about work performance.

SA Unions Secretary, Janet Giles, says it is a damning indictment of workplace culture and the failure on the part of those in positions of authority who abuse that trust despite the blatantly illegal nature of their behaviour. Experiences of Sexual Harassment amongst Young Women Workers: An Exploration of Power and Opportunity -  Anne Purdy and Nadine Levy, SA Young Workers Legal Service.