You should never tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment
It is hurtful, degrading, demeaning and unfair. However, it can be quite difficult to confront employers about discrimination in the workplace. Particularly if they wish to continue working with the employer or working in the same industry – it requires a sensitive but firm approach.
How is discrimination defined?
An employer discriminates against an employee if the:
- The employer treats the employee less favourably because of some characteristic, status or identity that he or she has. This is known as ‘direct’ discrimination.
- The employer adopts a neutral policy that has the effect of treating the employee less favourably because of some characteristic, status or identity that he or she has. This is known as ‘indirect’ discrimination. Examples of indirect policies are:
- Managers must work full-time – discriminating again working mothers
- Having to work on a site that has stair access only – discriminating against people in wheelchairs
Various forms of workplace discrimination are prohibited by the Commonwealth and State anti-discrimination legislation and the ‘general protections’ provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009.
How to deal with discrimination
If your employer has taken an ‘adverse action’ against you because of your race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction, or social origin, you may be entitled to make a general protections application.
You can also make a complaint to the relevant Commonwealth or State human rights and anti-discrimination bodies. These bodies will investigate the issue and aim to resolve it by mediation or conciliation. If that is unsuccessful, you may be entitled to commence proceedings in court or in a tribunal.
Have you been sexually harassed?
Sexual harassment can be committed by an employer, workmate or other people in a working relationship with you. It can be stressful and hinder your working capacity and quality of life.
Workplace sexual harassment is against the law, and is a common complaint received by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Fixing the problem of harassment
Your employer may have internal grievance processes that allow you to submit a complaint about harassment. If so, you should ask your employer for a copy of their grievance or complaints policy, and submit a complaint in the manner detailed.
This can often be a cheap and effective way of putting an end to the harassment by alerting your employer to the culprit and prompt them to take action.
If a workplace complaint does not solve the problem, you can make a complaint about discrimination or harassment to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Commission will investigate the issue. If mediation or conciliation is unsuccessful, you may be entitled to commence proceedings in court or in a tribunal.
We can help you get results
If you have been discriminated against or harassed, our workplace specialists can help you to:
- Devise a strategy to stop the discrimination and harassment and ensure that it does not happen in the future.
- Submit complaints to your employer and to participate in workplace investigations.
- Make general protections claims or claims under the state anti-discrimination legislation.
- Interact with a former employer who has discriminated against you on your behalf.
Get in touch with us now and let us help you deal with, and put an end to, workplace discrimination and harassment.