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Sexual Harassment Complaint Options

Sexual Harassment Complain...

The following are options available for victims of sexual harassment to take action action the harasser and, if necessary, the employer. 

Reporting Sexual Harassment

An employee who feels s/he has been the victim of sexual harassment may report the incident(s)verbally, in writing, or by mail, telegraph, facsimile, or internet to a Supervisor (immediate supervisor, deparment head, HR Department, etc.)

File Report with Labor Office
After filing, an investigation by the Ministry of Labor will be conducted and the employer may be subject to a corrective order to take appropriate measures including disciplinary action, etc. The employer may be subject to an administrative fine in case of non-compliance with the corrective order.

Filing a petition with the National Human Rights Commission
After filing, an investigation will be held by the National Human Rights Commission the employer may be subject to a non-binding corrective order that is made public.

Obtaining Compensation for Damages
The victim hs the right to demand compensation against both the direct harasser and the employer  for damages resulting from the harassment.

Criminal Action?
Sexual harassment is not considered a criminal act. However, should the harassment include sexual assault, rape, the use the force or work-related 'disgraceful' conduct, the victim may file a complaint against the harasser to an investigation agency (police) based on (1) work-related disgraceful conduct (Article 11 of the Acts on Punishment of Sexual Violence and Protection of Victims,  (2) work-related rape (Article 303 of the Criminal Code); and (3) disgraceful conduct by force (Article 298 of the Criminal Code), etc. In some instances, the complain must be made within one year of the incident.

The following Q&A concerning the rights of the victimized employee to seek help was developed by a Korean lawyer to clarify options.

Q) Is it possible to punish sexual harasser through the Equal Employment Act?

A) It is not possible to directly punish sexual harassers by the Equal Employment Act. This is because in order to punish the sexual harasser by an act that does not differentiates between his or her acts inside and outside of the company, it would have to be regulated by a general law that apply to all nationals instead of a law such as the Equal Employment Act which is specific to employment.  As the Equal Employment Act entrusts employers with the responsibility of prohibiting and preventing discrimination, there is no provision stipulated in the administrative legal structure to punish the sexual harasser. However, as there are provisions for employer to implement measures such as department transfer, disciplinary punishment, etc. against sexual harassers, the victimized employee may therefore request to a grievance handling committee for help to resolve problems of sexual harassment and may also request for disciplinary punishments to be imposed on the sexual harasser.  If such requests are not accepted by the employer, the employee may lodge with the Labor Office for remedial action against the employer. In addition, the victimized employee may also bring a civil suit against the sexual harasser so as to claim for compensation.

Q) For a sexual harassment case happened 2 years ago, is it still possible to appeal for an internal solution by the company or to lodge complaint with the Labor Office?
A) Yes, it is possible. The Statute of Limitations for most labor laws generally allows for three years and the Statute of Limitations of general rights in the Equal Employment Act also allows for three years. As such, for sexual harassment occurring within 3 years the Equal Employment Act is absolutely applicable and the victimized employee may lodge such complaint with the Labor Office.  

Q) When there is sexual harassment, must the victimized employee personally lodge her appeal or complain in order for her right to seek help to be effective?
A) No. In the event an employer disadvantages an employee in her employment or did not take appropriate measures against the sexual harasser, it is also possible for a third party such as a consulting body to seek redress or to complain to the Labor Office. However, as sexual issues are likely to infringe on characters and rights of both the victimized employee and the sexual harasser, the representing third party will have to sufficiently consider the victimized employee’s opinion before appealing or complaining to the labor office.

Reference: Publication of the Ministry of Labor 『Sexual Harassment at Work, from its prevention to countermeasures』(March 2001)

Editor's Note: The information in this section has been provided to by a number of Korean law specialists and there may have been changes in the Act since we posted this page. Should you not any errors or ommissions, please let us know at  Also, the information above is intended as a general guideline, and is not intended as legal advice.

Last Updated on 2021-02-08

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