Workplace Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment in Australia
In any business environment there are people constantly interacting with each other. It’s important that we all promote an environment where each person is treated with respect, where employees can meet their full potential and an employee’s conduct is judged on merit. It is inevitable in workplaces that there will be disputes and occasionally allegations of misconduct.
Employers should have workplace policies in place for discrimination, harassment and bullying. The sophistication of your workplace policy will usually reflect the size of your organisation, whether you have a Human Resources Department and the number of employees you have. An employer who does not have workplace policies in place for discrimination, harassment and bullying could be found vicariously liable for the unlawful actions of employees. Speak to our employment lawyers for workplace policies to use in your business and protect your from vicarious liability.
It is important to take any allegation of discrimination, harassment and bullying seriously. We recommend approaching any allegations objectively and fairly. There should be an impartial investigation if at all possible. The parties involved should be allowed to have a third party support person and be given procedural fairness. The allegation and investigation should be in writing. In some cases there may be grounds for a claim of discrimination, harassment or bullying. In cases where the offending behaviour is not serious it may be possible to resolve any claims internally with escalation to the satisfaction of the claimant. In some instances there may not be sufficient grounds for a finding. Some cases of harassment and bullying can be particularly difficult as to whether any alleged behaviour meets the threshold of harassment and bullying. In these cases a full explanation should be given to the parties involved.
Everyone employed in a workplace in Australia has the right to feel safe and have their work performance evaluated based on merit. There are laws in place to protect employees. If you believe you have experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying we recommend seeking appropriate support and assistance. Our employment lawyers can give you qualified legal advice as to whether particular behaviour amounts to discrimination, harassment or bullying.
While it is important to recognise and protect your rights, you should exercise caution in making your allegation public. There could be a misunderstanding or miscommunication which can happen. If you make allegations of discrimination, harassment or bullying without reasonable grounds you could be making a false allegation against someone. This of itself can be a form of harassment and bullying. If the offending behaviour is not obvious or clear you should speak to one of our employer lawyers.
Discrimination occurs where an employer, employee or agent treats an employee less favourable based on a protected attribute. The grounds on which discrimination against a protected attribute can be found include:
- A person’s race, skin colour or ethnicity
- A person’s gender
- A person’s sexual orientation
- A person’s age
- A physical or mental disability
- A person’s marital status
- Whether a person has family or carer responsibilities
- Whether a person is pregnant
- A person’s political opinion
Some special exceptions can apply which do allow employers to discriminate against certain attributes. If you have concerns about discrimination or are unsure of your position call one of our employment lawyers today on 1800 572 417.
When do Discrimination Protections Apply?
Discrimination protections apply whether an employee is:
- Applying for a job with an employer
- An employee has been hired but has not started work yet
- Anytime during employment
We are here to provide employment law legal advice to guide employers and employees to protect their rights and make positive choices for the future.
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