Working Paper

Workplace Sexual Harassment: Understanding The Experiences of LGBTQ Employees

Published: 2024

The findings of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces suggest that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-plus (LGBTQ+) community have a higher risk of being sexually harassed at work than their cisgender, heterosexual colleagues. To better understand this concerning trend, we analysed almost 45,000 responses to the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI) Employee Survey 2022.

The key findings were:

  • LGBTQ+ employees were twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ employees to have been sexually harassed in the past year (4% vs 2%). They were also more likely to have been sexually harassed more than 12 months ago (32% vs 23%).
  • Rates of sexual harassment victimization were higher for employees assigned female at birth (AFAB) compared to those assigned male at birth (AMAB); and for gender non-binary employees compared to cisgender and transgender employees.
  • The highest rates of lifetime sexual harassment were experienced by AFAB employees who identified as pansexual (49%), queer (46%), bisexual (45%) and lesbian (39%).
  • LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ employees were equally likely to report harassment to their employer (~29% of those harassed) and to feel satisfied with the handling of their complaints (~58% of those who reported).

Australian workplaces have a legal responsibility to protect their employees from being sexually harassed at work. Our findings highlight that workplaces must address the specific vulnerability of LGBTQ+ employees:

  • Manager and bystander training programs, while broadly effective, should be revised to ensure that they adequately address the unique forms of sexual harassment to which LGBTQ+ people are subjected.
  • Strategies for promoting workplaces that are less hierarchical and more collaborative must be augmented with strategies dedicated to fostering the inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees, such as employee/ally networks.


Centre Member

Alice Kate Campbell

Centre Friend

Francisco Perales
Nicki Elkin


Perales, F., Campbell, A., & Elkin, N. (2024). ‘Workplace Sexual Harassment: Understanding the Experiences of LGBTQ Employees’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2024-20. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland. DOI: 10.14264/3e91d85