Less than one fifth of sexual harassment victims report their harasser because workplace whistleblowers are still seen as troublemakers who may face demotion or be ostracised, the country's Sex Discrimination Commissioner says.
Elizabeth Broderick will tomorrow tell a Curtin University forum that sexual harassment in the workplace is getting worse, with one in four Australian women having experienced it in the past five years.
Sexual harassment was also the biggest source of employment-related complaints in WA for 2011-12.
Speaking on the eve of her visit to Perth, Ms Broderick said the number of men being sexually harassed at work was rising. However, men still accounted for nine out of 10 perpetrators of sexual harassment.
Women are still also far more likely to be harassed during their lifetime - 33 per cent of women will experience some degree of harassment compared with 9 per cent of men.
"The reporting of sexual harassment is still very low," Ms Broderick said.
"Less than 20 per cent of those who are sexually harassed (report it)."
She said while many workplaces had improved the way they handled complaints, many more had a culture that did not encourage victims to come forward.
"You'll be seen as a troublemaker, you'll be ostracised, in certain cases you'll be demoted or fired for bringing a complaint," she said.
Ms Broderick said there was also confusion among men and women about what constituted sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which offends, humiliates or intimidates and which, it is reasonably anticipated, would offend the target.
According to a survey this year, the most common types of sexual harassment in Australia were sexually suggestive comments or jokes, intrusive questions about a person's private life or physical appearance and inappropriate staring or leering.
Other complaints include inappropriate physical contact, sexually explicit emails or text messages and repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out.