Policy Against Sexual Harassment
The ACT Bar is committed to providing a working environment where barristers and those engaging with barristers can conduct themselves free from sexual harassment. The principles of justice, integrity, equity and the pursuit of excellence upon which the Bar is founded demand respectful behaviour by members of the Bar.
Objectives of the policy
This policy has the following objectives:
- creating a work and business environment free from sexual harassment;
- encouraging an environment throughout the ACT Bar where individuals are treated with courtesy, respect and dignity;
- treating complaints made in good faith about sexual harassment in a manner that is, to the extent possible, confidential, timely, fair and with protection from reprisal;
- implementing training and awareness of behaviours that constitute sexual harassment and that may breach barristers’ good conduct rules;
- encouraging reports of sexual harassment behaviour;
- promoting appropriate standards of conduct at all times.
For the purposes of this policy, sexual harassment is when someone makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, in circumstances wherein a reasonable person with regard to all the circumstances would anticipate that the person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
Conduct of a sexual nature includes making a statement of a sexual nature to the person or in the presence of the person, whether orally or in writing. The intention behind the person’s behaviour is not relevant.
Interactions that are consensual, welcome and reciprocated are not behaviour that is sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is unlawful in any workplace.
ACT and Federal legislation make sexual harassment unlawful in any work-related context. They apply during all aspects of advice and advocacy work of barristers and during all professional engagements including those of an educative or social nature whether formal or informal.
The ACT Bar Association is committed to ensuring that persons who, in good faith, make complaints or reports of sexual harassment will not be subjected to any detriment as a result of doing so.
Complaint and Report process
Occurrences of sexual harassment may be dealt with through the Complaint or Report process. Both Complaints and Reports are initiated via the online form on the ACT Bar Association website.
A Report of sexual harassment by a barrister will be anonymised and used for reporting purposes, including to the Bar Council, and to better inform training and awareness needs and initiatives of the Bar. Reports will not be investigated and will not seek to record information identifying the person about whose conduct the Report is made. The identity of persons making reports will not be disseminated or publicised in the statistical reporting that is made to Bar Council or in any other way.
A Complaint of sexual harassment will be investigated and may be independently conciliated, where possible, to a mutually agreed outcome. Any contact with the person about whom the Complaint is made will be discussed with the complainant prior to contact being made. After discussion with the complainant, Complaints may in some circumstances be referred to the ACT Bar Ethics Committee.
Once a Complaint is received, it will go to the ACT Bar Association’s EEO Subcommittee who will allocate a specific complaint-handler to investigate the complaint. The complaint-handler is chosen from a pool of complaint-handlers who have been nominated by respective barristers’ chambers in the ACT. On some occasions, the EEO Subcommittee may determine that it is most appropriate that an external investigator outside of the nominated pool of complaint-handlers should be allocated to conduct the investigation.
The complaint-handler will be required to handle the complaint in accordance with the following key overarching principles:
- Professional community standards: This complaint process is designed to improve the standards of behaviour of the profession. It is critically important that the Bar not be seen to condone, tolerate or ignore discrimination, harassment, or bullying, by or of its members.
- Confidentiality: If a person wishes to make a complaint against a barrister in relation to sexual harassment, only those people directly involved in the complaint or in its attempted resolution (i.e. the complainant, the alleged perpetrator, the ACT Bar Association EEO Subcommittee, the allocated complaint handler and, if necessary, the ACT Bar Council Executive) will have access to information about the complaint and will be required to take all reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality. There are circumstances where information may not be able to be kept confidential, such as if physical threats are involved or the law otherwise requires it.
- Impartiality: All reasonable steps will be taken to provide the complainant and the alleged perpetrator with a chance to tell their story. No assumptions will be made and no action taken until all relevant information is collected and considered.
- Norepercussions: No action will be taken against anyone for making or helping someone to make a genuine grievance. Subjecting a complainant or person assisting a complainant to a detriment because they have made a complaint or said that they will make a complaint constitutes victimisation, and may be an offence under the relevant laws.
- Promptness: All complaints will be dealt with as quickly as practicable.
The Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2014 (Rules) provide that a barrister must not engage in sexual harassment in the course of legal practice (rule 122.1). Therefore, a person may also action a complaint about sexual harassment by a barrister as a breach of the Rules by contacting the CEO of the ACT Bar Association who will refer it directly to the ACT Bar Ethics Committee.
Formal complaints of sexual harassment by barristers may also be made in some circumstances to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the ACT Human Rights Commission and WorkSafe ACT.
Victims of sexual violence may also seek support from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 6247 2525.
Sexual harassment by judicial officers
Complaints of sexual harassment by judicial officers may be raised with the President of the ACT Bar via contacting the CEO of the ACT Bar Association.
Other sexual harassment
Sexual harassment by persons other than barristers and conduct by barristers that is not sexual harassment within the meaning of this policy because it has not occurred in the course of work in a workplace is not the subject of this policy.