Sexual harassment deemed outside a legal regulator’s scope – Lawyers Weekly

Only a small proportion of organisations take disciplinary action against sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace because they are still thought to be outside the remit of a legal regulator, according to a regulatory body for the legal profession.

It found that of the respondents, 70 per cent have the authority to address sexual harassment — but only 58 per cent had taken disciplinary action in relation to sexual harassment, while 47 per cent had taken disciplinary action for bullying.

Ms McLeay said the lawyers surveyed by the VLSB+C in 2019 said they didn’t report being sexually harassed due to fear of not being believed, a desire to avoid confrontation with the harasser, concerns that a complaint could derail their career, and an expectation that the complaints process would be embarrassing or complicated.

The survey also revealed that 90 per cent of perpetrators are male, 66 per cent are aged over 40, and 72 per cent are in a more senior role than the person they harass.

“From this, it’s clear another major barrier is the power imbalance that often exists in cases of sexual harassment,” Ms McLeay said.

In 2021, the VLSB+C launched an online tool for lawyers to anonymously report instances of sexual harassment.

The tool — which can be accessed through the VLSB+C website — allows victims and witnesses of sexual harassment in the Victorian legal profession to share the details of the misconduct and have their reports reviewed by a specially trained sexual harassment complaints team.

Source: Sexual harassment deemed outside a legal regulator’s scope – Lawyers Weekly

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