Discrimination and Harassment at Work
Discrimination refer to treating someone unfairly often due to prejudices against, or negative views of, groups of people who are different from ourselves. Discrimination can come in many shapes and forms however it is often refers to as denying desired and expected rewards or opportunities for reason related not to their capacities, merits, or behaviour, but solely because of membership in an identifiable out-group
In Queensland many types of discrimination are against the law. The laws dealing with discrimination help give everyone in Queensland an equal opportunity to a ‘fair go’.
What types of discrimination are against the law in Queensland?
The following are some of the types of discrimination which are against the law:
When you are discriminated against because you need to care for, or support a child or other ‘immediate family member’.
When you are treated unfairly or harshly based upon gender. Discrimination against a woman because she is pregnant can also be sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is also against the law.
When you are treated unfairly or harassed because of your race, colour, ethnic background, ethno-religious background, descent or nationality.
When you are treated unfairly or harassed because of your age – for example, because people think you are too old, too young or too middle aged. Forcing people to retire at the old retirement age is also against the law.
Marital Status Discrimination
When you are treated unfairly or harassed because of your particular marital status, for example, because you are single, or married, or living in a de facto relationship.
When you are treated unfairly or harassed because you have a disability, or someone thinks you have a disability. It is also against the law to treat you unfairly or harass you because you had a disability in the past, or because you will or may get one in the future. Disability includes physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, learning and emotional disorders, and any organism capable of causing disease (for example, infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS).
Discrimination because of who you are related to, or who you associate with
When you are treated unfairly or harassed because of the sex, race, age, marital status, or disability of one of your relatives, friends or work colleagues.
If you are being discriminated against you can contact the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland for advice and help phone: 1800 670 812 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Harassment is any form of behaviour that:
- you do not want
- offends, humiliates or intimidates you
- targets you because of your sex, pregnancy, race, marital status, disability, age, carers’ responsibilities.
If you are harassed you can:
- try talking to the person or organisation that you think is harassing you (the organisation may have a policy on these issues and/or a process in place to deal with grievances)
- get help from your union.
If talking to the person or organisation involved doesn’t work, or isn’t appropriate, you may decide to make a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland (ADCQ). If you make a complaint, it must be in writing and it is best if it is signed by you.
All complaints will be treated confidentially and the ADCQ’s services are free. They will need to inform the organisation or person you are complaining about of the complaint. They will not release information about your complaint to anyone else except with your permission or if they are required to by law. It is against the law for anyone to hassle or victimise you because you’ve complained to the ADCQ.
If you have been assaulted you can also complain to the police, they will investigate the claim.
Bullying can come from co-workers, supervisors or customers. Bullying is unwanted, offensive and frightening behaviour. It can involve:
- yelling or abusive language
- laughs or insults because of your lack of experience, appearance, race, religion or sexual preference
- physical abuse – people pushing, poking, hitting or threatening to hurt you.
Some bullying or violence is against the law. For under 18 year olds it may also be considered child abuse.
Bullying frequently consists of a series of acts or incidents which in isolation appear trivial but put together can be devastating. Also, a bully can deny that bullying is occurring when single incidents are involved but cannot do so when there is a series of incidents.
If you feel bullied:
- tell the person to stop
- tell your employer, your human resources manager or occupational health and safety representative
- keep a diary of events See also: Keep a diary if you are bullied
Keep a diary if you are bullied
You should keep notes of any incidences of bullying at work. Notes are important to:
- Demonstrate that a pattern of events is occurring. This is necessary if allegations of bullying are to be sustained.
- Provide the level of detail required to establish credibility. Where there is any dispute, a person with detailed notes will always prevail over one with only vague memories.
- Take away the bully’s confidence and may cause the bullying to stop if the bully sees notes being taken. It shows the bully that you intend taking action and the possession of detailed information provides you with a form of power. Bullies depend upon their victims lacking power.
- Provide the evidence that is necessary if the person or persons responsible for the bullying are to be successfully prosecuted.
- Establish that any illness which is claimed to have arisen out of the bullying, is work related. This is important to those intending to make a claim for workers compensation in order to recover lost wages and medical/rehabilitation expenses due to the bullying. Any loss of time at work and any other cost arising from bullying must also be recorded.
- Help the self esteem of the victim as it makes them feel better, irrespective of whether the records are used or not.
Talk to your union
Unions have identified bullying as a serious trend in employment (especially towards young workers) and have taken steps to have the issues highlighted and addressed in the workplace. Unions can help workers who believe they have been bullied at work by:
- providing support to workers who believe they have been bullied at work
- identifying, assessing and controlling workplace risks associated with bullying behaviour
- assisting in the development of policies and procedures to prevent bullying behaviour and to ensure such workplace policies and procedures are in place
- assisting in the development of workplace dispute settlement procedures
- negotiating directly with the employer
- including Occupational Health and Safety clauses in enterprise agreements
- representing an employee in industrial tribunals
- assisting in the process of conducting risk assessments
- launching prosecution action in the Industrial Relations Commission for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations
- monitoring WorkCover claim history to establish if patterns are developing with bullying in the workplace
- assisting union members in workers compensation claims and rehabilitation
- arranging for counselling for affected employees.
- Unions will maintain confidentiality regarding all complaints and enquiries
- it is important to maintain confidentiality in case the matter is not proven and to prevent the matter from escalating
- if the matter is to be made formal through the courts the basis of the complaint will have to be detailed with all parties able to give evidence as to their version of events.
Support groups who can help if you are bullied
There are many support groups for young people that are bullied at work, read the Reach Out! Fact sheet on bullying in the workplace to find out where you can go for help and advice:
You can also seek advice on bullying by contacting:
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
Bullying Hotline: 1300 362 223
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)
Phone: (02) 9284 9600