Discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace can cause significant damage to both those suffering the harassment and the workplaces where it occurs. Psychological and stress-related injuries can leave employees feeling vulnerable and unable to adequately perform their duties, and employers risk exposure to financial damage, unwanted media attention and loss of reputation.

Discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace can cause significant damage to both those suffering the harassment and the workplaces where it occurs. It is critical that employers understand the types of conduct and behaviour that breach workplace laws and be proactive in addressing such matters to minimise the risk to their organisation and their employees.

Whether you are the victim of discrimination, bullying or harassment, or you lead an organisation that needs to address these issues, our knowledgeable team will work with you to protect your rights and reach tailored workplace solutions

Discrimination in the workplace

Anti-discrimination laws promote equality throughout the workforce and generally protect individuals against discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, ethnic, national extraction, or social origin.

Employers must not take ‘adverse action’ against an employee or prospective employee as a result of that person having any one or more of these attributes. Conduct that may constitute adverse action in these circumstances might include dismissing an employee, refusing to hire somebody, or treating one employee less favourably than another.

Various situations may lead to direct or indirect discrimination in the workplace, and employers should recognise the types of conduct that might be considered discriminative, harsh, or unjust.

Bullying and harassment

Workplace bullying may occur in circumstances where an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker, and this behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. Examples of bullying may include:

  • aggressive or intimidating conduct;
  • belittling or humiliating comments;
  • victimisation, isolation, or ostracism;
  • spreading rumours or playing practical jokes; and
  • unreasonable work expectations.

Some bullying could be physically violent, or otherwise involve subjecting a worker to a physical safety risk at their workplace, although bullying often also causes psychological and stress-related health and safety risks.

Harassment is generally defined as behaviour towards a person in circumstances where such conduct is uninvited, offends, humiliates, or intimidates that person, and creates a hostile environment. Whether conduct is considered harassment will depend on the particular circumstances of each case, however typical examples might include offensive jokes and gestures, verbal abuse, or unwelcome attention.

The role of policies and procedures

Implementing systems to deal with potential workplace issues such as discrimination, harassment, and bullying forms an essential part of an organisation’s risk management strategy. Employers and employees must understand the type of behaviour (whether intentional or not) that might constitute a breach of a workplace policy or legislation, have processes in place to educate workers, and deal with issues if they arise.

Policies and codes of conduct addressing these issues are an invaluable source of education for employers and employees, and may assist in showing that an organisation has made genuine efforts to impose the required conduct expected of its employees.

What can DKL do for me?

We are experienced employment lawyers and treat all clients with respect and dignity. Whether you are the victim of discrimination, bullying or harassment, or you lead an organisation that needs to address these issues, our knowledgeable team will work with you to protect your rights and reach tailored workplace solutions. DKL can provide the guidance and solutions you are looking for, while focusing on a meaningful, discreet resolution, and not weighing you down with costly, expensive, and time-consuming litigation.

Call us on +61 (2) 9233 5669, email [email protected] or submit a webform to speak to one of our onboarding team about how we can help you.