There is no uniform approach to dealing with a bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment issue. We can help you access your best recourse, be it under OH&S laws, Equal Opportunity laws, Federal Laws dealing with Age, Disabilities, Race and Sex, Adverse Action, workplace policies or internal mechanisms at your workplace.

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Bullying is defined to mean “repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.” 

Bullying can take many forms, including jokes, teasing, nicknames, emails, pictures, text messages, social isolation or ignoring people, or unfair work practices. Behaviours that may constitute bullying include:

  • sarcasm and other forms of demeaning language,
  • threats, abuse or shouting,
  • coercion,
  • isolation,
  • inappropriate blaming,
  • ganging up,
  • constant unconstructive criticism,
  • deliberately withholding information or equipment that a person needs to do their job or access their entitlements,
  • unreasonable refusal of requests for leave, training or other workplace benefits.

What is not bullying?

Reasonable directions given to employees are not bullying, including:

  • allocating work and setting performance goals, standards and deadlines,
  • informing and warning an employee about unsatisfactory work performance,
  • informing and warning a worker about inappropriate behaviour,
  • providing constructive feedback.

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law, such as sex, age, race or disability.

The personal characteristics that are protected by law include:

  • a disability, disease or injury, including work-related injury
  • parental status or status as a carer, for example, because they are responsible for caring for children or other family members
  • race, colour, descent, national origin, or ethnic background
  • age, whether young or old, or because of age in general
  • sex
  • industrial activity, including being a member of an industrial organisation like a trade union or taking part in industrial activity, or deciding not to join a union
  • religion;
  • pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • sexual orientation, intersex status or gender identity, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer and heterosexual
  • marital status, whether married, divorced, unmarried or in a de facto relationship or same sex relationship
  • political opinion
  • social origin
  • medical record
  • an association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these characteristics, such as being the parent of a child with a disability

Discrimination can be committed directly, when a person or group is treated less favourably than another person or group in a similar situation because of a personal characteristic protected by law.

Discrimination can also be committed indirectly, when an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice is imposed that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging people with a personal characteristic protected by law.

It is also against the law to treat someone unfavourably because you assume they have a personal characteristic or may have it at some time in the future.

Sexual harassment is a specific and serious form of harassment. It is unwelcome sexual behaviour, which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. A single incident is enough to constitute sexual harassment; it does not need to have been repeated. Sexual harassment can be physical, spoken or written. It can include:

  • comments about a person’s private life or the way they look
  • sexually suggestive behaviour, such as leering or staring
  • brushing up against someone, touching, fondling or hugging
  • sexually suggestive comments or jokes
  • displaying offensive screen savers, photos, calendars or objects
  • repeated unwanted requests to go out
  • requests for sex
  • sexually explicit posts on social networking sites
  • insults or taunts of a sexual nature
  • intrusive questions or statements about a person’s private life
  • sending sexually explicit emails or text messages
  • inappropriate advances on social networking sites
  • accessing sexually explicit internet sites
  • behaviour that may also be considered to be an offence under criminal law, such as physical assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking or obscene communications.

Just because someone does not object to inappropriate behaviour in the workplace at the time, it does not mean that they are consenting to the behaviour.

Sexual harassment is covered in the workplace when it happens at work, at work-related events, between people sharing the same workplace, or between colleagues outside of work.