Discrimination Harrassment and Bullying

What is discrimination, harassment and bullying?

Harassment, discrimination and bullying includes any behaviour that:

  • offends, humiliates or intimidates an employee;
  • targets the employee because of his/her gender, pregnancy, race, marital status, disability, age, sexual preference or transgender status;
  • excludes the employee.

Examples of this behaviour include:

  • offensive jokes or unwelcome practical jokes,
  • sexual or physical contact such slapping or kissing,
  • sexual or physical conduct, sexual advances or invitations,
  • material that is sexually explicit, whether it is displayed in the workplace, put in someone’s work space or belongings, displayed on a computer or social media or a mobile device or tablet device or from the internet, persistent, continuous ill-treatment of an individual worker by one or more staff members, which can reasonably be regarded as undermining that individual worker’s right to dignity at work.

Is Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying a problem?

The simple answer is yes. Employers have the WH&S obligation to provide a safe workplace for everyone. If any form of harassment, discrimination or bullying is occurring in a workplace, it can lead to a decrease in profitability, an increase in stress, an increase in absenteeism, create low morale, decrease productivity, cause the loss of a reputation or image, lead to high staff turnover, increased worker’s compensation claims and a breach of work health and safety obligations.

Employers need to remember that the employer is liable for any harassment it commits, as well as any harassment committed by an employee. To avoid liability, the employer has to be able to show that it took reasonable steps to prevent the harassment from happening. Reasonable steps can include developing a policy on harassment, but more importantly, implementing and applying it to everyone in the workplace from the Managing Director down.

What happens if there is a claim or a complaint?

If there is a claim made, the business must deal with it as effectively as possible. There is financial compensation available to the victim. The internal cost for the company can include legal fees, time away from the business and loss of profitability, together with staff turnover. Appropriate action must always be taken against the harasser, and there is also the possibility that the behaviour has breached the work health and safety laws.

What can you do?

A profitable workplace involves respect and clear messages from management about acceptable work practices and behaviour. Training, the introduction of workplace policies and their application to everyone will minimise claims, create harmony and lead to a better workplace.

If you need any assistance contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call 02 9439 5299 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.