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Making a complaint to VLSB+C about sexual harassment

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How to make a complaint about sexual harassment

Our Sexual Harassment Complaints team have specialised training in managing sexual harassment complaints. You can make a formal complaint, which is managed by the team via our regular complaints process, or you can provide an informal report or information anonymously.

If you are not sure which pathway is right for you, you can speak to our sexual harassment complaints specialists to understand more about the process before deciding whether to make a formal complaint.

To make a complaint to the VLSB+C:

  • call us on (03) 9679 8001 and ask to talk to a member of the Sexual Harassment Complaints Team, or
  • email
  • log a report using our online reporting tool (click on button below)

     Report here

Find out more about each of the reporting pathways below:

Formal complaint

Sexual harassment by lawyers can constitute professional misconduct.

We take all complaints about sexual harassment seriously. To make a formal complaint, you will need to provide your name and contact details and your complaint will be recorded in writing. If the complaint proceeds to an investigation we will be required to provide your name, along with information about the complaint, to the person we are investigating. This is so they can respond to the complaint. You can find out more about how our complaints process works here.

You can also contact us if you believe that a Victorian legal practice has failed to take reasonable steps to respond to sexual harassment.

Formal complaint

You can talk to us and we can give you information about options available to you

You make a formal complaint which has to be in writing.

You may be asked to provide a statement, so there is a record of your report and we can limit how often you have to retell your story. 

You will be asked to provide any evidence you may have (it doesn’t matter if there isn’t any)

We advise the lawyer of the complaint and ask for their explanation.

We gather all available evidence from every available source.

We make a decision, which involves four possible options:

We take no further action

We take no further action but give the lawyer an informal warning

We decide the conduct amounts to unsatisfactory professional conduct

We decide the conduct amounts to professional misconduct. 

If unsatisfactory professional conduct, we can make orders such as a reprimand, a caution, Continuing Professional Development, a fine, or place conditions on a lawyer’s practising certificate.

If professional misconduct – we file charges at VCAT. This is called a disciplinary prosecution. You may be required to give evidence at VCAT.

VCAT then makes a final decision – there are various orders they can make such as a reprimand, a fine or suspension or cancellation of a practising certificate.

Reporting anonymously 

If you have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment but do not want to make a formal complaint you can contact us informally and anonymously via phone, email or using the reporting tool below. We will not be able to investigate your specific incident, however we will be able to track and monitor incidents and identify potential ‘hot spots’ of harassment. Where we identify a ‘hot spot’ we can undertake a targeted compliance audit to assess how a firm is being managed and supervised.

Online Reporting tool

Report here

If you do not feel comfortable emailing or calling us, you can log a report using our online reporting tool. Your report will go directly to the Sexual Harassment Complaints handling team. The tool is designed to make reporting incidents of harassment easier for you. Some key benefits are:

  • You can remain anonymous throughout this process or provide contact details if you wish (you can also switch from one to the other as you please before submitting your report).
  • There is a ‘quick exit’ button within the reporting tool that you can click to quickly leave the site if you are concerned about someone looking over your shoulder.
  • A list of support services is provided if you need assistance or support.
  • You can skip any questions to submit your report at any time.
  • You can select whether you want to be contacted or not, and your preferred method of communication.
  • Anyone can make a report; either the person who experienced the harassment or a third party or witness.
  • There is a free text area where you can tell your story in your own words. You can provide as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable.
  • If you are not sure what to write, there are some helpful prompts to assist you.You can upload supporting documents and evidence directly into the system.
  • You maintain control over how the matter progresses.

Informal report

You call, email or complete the online report

You tell your story

We listen, give you options to progress the matter or refer you for support

Then there are two possible options.

You decide to lodge a formal complaint.

The matter is finalised but your story may inform education or training or help us monitor hot spots of harassment. Your information doesn’t get released without your consent.

Complaint case study

Amy is a junior solicitor at a law practice. She called to discuss her experience of sexual harassment perpetrated by a male barrister who the law practice regularly briefs. The behaviour involved discussions about his sex life, persistent invites to after work drinks with a sexual connotation, and inappropriate physical contact. 

Amy has not only been the recipient of the behaviour but has also witnessed it against others. When she raised the behaviour with one of the managing partners, his response was to remove the file from her and allocate it to a male solicitor.  One of the female partners is aware of the barrister’s behaviour so refuses to brief him but the law practice continues to do so. 

Amy is fearful to report the behaviour formally, as she is concerned about her reputation and the effect it may have on her career. Our complaints team is able to explain options to Amy. The information is also helpful for the VLSB+C to understand instances of harassment, trends in conduct and how to better direct education and training.

Assistance and support

If any of the above has caused you distress please reach out for assistance or support by contacting:

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