Sexual harassment policy

Intent and objectives

To provide an environment at RMIT that is free from sexual harassment. To ensure that all staff and students are educated in the prevention of sexual harassment and to recognise the behaviours that may constitute sexual harassment.

Objectives

  • To prevent all forms of sexual harassment at RMIT University
  • To convey clearly to all persons covered by the scope of this policy that any behaviour which may constitute sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any form at RMIT University.
  • To provide persons covered by the scope of this policy with a healthy and safe environment for work and study that is free from behaviours, practices and processes that may constitute sexual harassment.
  • To acknowledge that persons covered by the scope of this policy are to be informed of this policy and have access to the information and training needed to prevent sexual harassment and to address any incidences of sexual harassment that may occur.
  • To outline the responsibilities of managers and supervisors.
  • To encourage the early reporting of any allegations of sexual harassment.
  • To support any staff member or student who experiences sexual harassment whilst on placement including providing assistance in making use of any internal procedures in place at the site or in accessing external agencies.
  • To ensure that complaints will be dealt with in a sensitive, equitable, fair, timely and confidential manner, which ensures that persons against whom complaints have been made are accorded natural justice through the use of procedures that are impartial, open and fair to all parties.
  • To ensure as far as is practicable that persons making complaints are protected from victimisation or reprisals for reporting the harassment to the University.

Scope

This policy is applicable to all staff members, contractors, service providers, clients, customers, visitors and students when they are engaged in University activities, and is applicable to all RMIT locations whether in Australia or overseas.

Exclusions

Nil

Policy provisions

Sexual harassment is unlawful, unacceptable and will not be tolerated by RMIT in any circumstances.

Sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted, unwelcome or uninvited behaviour of a sexual nature, which makes a person feel humiliated, intimidated or offended. Sexual harassment can take many different forms and may include inappropriate or unnecessary physical contact, spoken or written comments, jokes, propositions, the display of offensive material or other behaviour which creates a sexually hostile environment.

The prevention of sexual harassment is a key component in attaining high ethical standards and ensuring excellence in all activities and is a management responsibility that enhances the ability of students and staff to reach their full potential in a safe, quality focussed learning and working environment. It contributes to the achievement of the quality management principles that are essential to the achievement of the teaching and learning strategy, and for work groups it contributes to productivity and high quality outcomes.

RMIT acknowledges that persons covered by the scope of this policy are to be informed of this policy and to have access to the information and training needed to prevent sexual harassment and to address any incidences of sexual harassment that may occur.

RMIT aims to integrate training regarding sexual harassment and the promotion of a diverse community into all levels of training, including induction, during supervisor and management training programs, and to integrate information and training into key student activities during orientation, enrolment and at other times of the academic year.

Prevention, training and educational activities to be undertaken include the publication of resource materials and provision of an accessible on-line training program.

Guiding Principles

The following principles will guide RMIT University in promoting equality of opportunity and dealing with sexual harassment:

  • Respect for, and the dignified and courteous treatment of, all staff, students and all persons who deal with RMIT.
  • RMIT aims to establish a climate where sexual harassment does not occur, emphasising prevention through training and awareness raising activities.
  • RMIT will ensure that all members of the RMIT community have access to the information and support needed to prevent sexual harassment or to deal with it appropriately if it occurs.
  • RMIT acknowledges that all persons covered by the scope of this policy are to be informed of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour.
  • Further, it acknowledges that all managers and supervisors are to be informed of their responsibility for ensuring the maintenance of proper standards of conduct within the University context.
  • RMIT will support any staff member or student who experiences sexual harassment whilst on placement including providing assistance in making use of any internal procedures in place at the site or in accessing external forums.
  • Complaints will be dealt with in a sensitive, impartial, timely and confidential manner, which ensures that persons against whom complaints have been made are accorded natural justice through the use of procedures that are impartial and open.
  • RMIT will ensure, as far as is practicable, that persons making complaints are protected against victimisation and reprisals.
  • RMIT will actively encourage the reporting of behaviour that breaches this policy.

Activities to be undertaken in support of this policy

RMIT will undertake activities in support of this policy including but not limited to:

  • Identifying the resources necessary for the prevention of sexual harassment
  • Research activities
  • Evaluation and review activities.

RMIT will ensure that the prevention of sexual harassment is recognised as a key organisational goal and prime management responsibility.

Responsibilities of management, staff and students

RMIT has a legal responsibility to prevent sexual harassment otherwise it can be held liable for the behaviour of its employees and, in some instances, its students.

All persons covered by the scope of this policy are required to:

  • Comply with this policy
  • Behave appropriately
  • Promote a climate of mutual respect
  • Maintain confidentiality concerning any complaint or investigation

Managers are accountable for the conduct of people they manage at RMIT.

It is integral to a manager’s responsibilities that they identify, prevent and redress potential problems in the workplace or in the study environment before these become the subject of complaints. Therefore, any manager, academic or teaching staff member who observes inappropriate behaviour has a duty to raise it with the person so behaving and to take further action if the behaviour does not cease. This duty exists even in the absence of a complaint.

Staff members with managerial or supervisory responsibility or both are required to:

  • Monitor the working and studying environment to ensure that acceptable standards of conduct are observed at all times and to take action if they observe unacceptable conduct that could constitute sexual harassment.
  • Take appropriate steps according to this policy to prevent a sexual harassment culture from developing at RMIT.
  • Promote this policy within their sphere of influence and to ensure that all persons have an understanding of the policy and its requirements.
  • Ensure that students and staff are aware of RMIT’s commitment to assist them should they experience sexual harassment on placement.
  • Ensure that students and staff on placement are provided with adequate information about the policies and practices in existence at that site.
  • Encourage staff members to use the services of the University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to discuss their concerns and to manage the pressures of working life.
  • Manage complaints of sexual harassment in a timely, confidential and fair manner ensuring due process.
  • Attempt to resolve any complaint of sexual harassment at the local level, whenever possible.
  • Allegations of sexual assault should be reported to Human Resources immediately
  • Managers and supervisors must report any allegations of sexual assault to Human Resources as soon as the allegations come to their attention

How to deal with breaches of this policy

Any complaints made by staff members under this policy will be dealt with via the Staff complaints procedure.

Any complaints made by students under this policy will be dealt with via the Student complaints procedure.

If a serious breach of this policy by a customer, contractor, service provider or visitor, while engaging with University staff or students, is confirmed, appropriate action must be taken in accordance with the relevant Service Contract or Agreement with the University.

All reports of this type of behaviour will be treated seriously and administered through the relevant complaints handling procedure (Staff complaints procedure or Student complaints procedure).

Victimisation

RMIT will not tolerate victimisation and may take disciplinary action in response to any victimisation.

RMIT University will ensure, as far as is practicable, that persons covered by the scope of this policy are not victimised or penalised for reporting alleged unreasonable behaviour at the University. Any person who is found to have victimised the person who has made or intends to make a complaint, or to have victimised a witness or associate of the person who has made, or intends to make a complaint, will be subject to the consequences of breaching this policy.

Consequences for breaches of this policy

RMIT will treat all allegations of sexual harassment seriously and impartially. The consequences for breaching this policy will depend on the seriousness of the case. Outcomes may include, but are not restricted to the following:

  • Gaining a commitment from one or more persons to cease, and not to repeat, the behaviour.
  • Making an apology to the affected person or persons.
  • Providing mediation between the parties, if both parties agree to mediation process and to the mediator.
  • Providing targeted training regarding prevention of unacceptable workplace behaviours.
  • Offering support to the person making the complaint.
  • Offering support to the person against whom the complaint is made.
  • Referral of matter to the Victoria Police.
  • Disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, suspension or expulsion, against the person found responsible for sexual harassment in cases of serious misconduct
  • Disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, suspension or expulsion, against the person making a complaint of sexual harassment if, after investigation, the complaint is found to have been malicious or vexatious.

Disciplinary action may be taken against anyone who victimises or retaliates against a person who has made a complaint.

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