The Human Rights Act 1993 defines racial harassment as uninvited behaviour that humiliates, offends or intimidates someone because of their race, colour, or ethnic or national origin.
Sexual harassment is unwanted, inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances and ranges from minor transgressions to sexual abuse or assault.
Under no circumstances should you have to put up with harassment of any kind. Sexual and racial harassment are both illegal and any behaviour that amounts to harassment may be considered misconduct and should be investigated by the school or employer. If anyone, including your teacher, boss or manager, is making you feel uncomfortable, there are steps you can take to address it and prevent it from getting worse.
The first approach, if you feel comfortable to do so, is to ask the person who is offending you to stop the behaviour. If it continues or you feel uncomfortable asking the offender to stop, talk to your teacher, principal or employer about the situation, or ask someone you trust to speak to them on your behalf.
If you tell your school or employer about the harassment they should take it seriously and provide a process to improve the situation. If they don’t, you can either raise a personal grievance or make a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. See below for more information on each process.
If it is your employer who is sexually, racially or generally harassing you, or if you cannot resolve the problem with them, there are two options for you to report the harassment. Only choose one, as you cannot do both. The two options are:
- Personal grievance:
- You will have 90 days to raise a personal grievance.
- Check out Employment New Zealand for more information on this process.
- Making a complaint under the Human Rights Act 1993:
- You will have 12 months after the incident to make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
- To do so, see the Human Rights Commission website.
The Human Rights Commission also offers a free, confidential service for anyone complaining about discrimination, racial or sexual harassment. If you have questions, call them on 0800 496 7877.
Resources for racial harassment:
- Community Law - 'Sexual and racial harassment'
- Employment New Zealand - ‘Sexual and racial harassment’
- Human Rights Commission - ‘Racially offensive comments’
Resources for sexual harassment: