Content

Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution for Employees Policy and Procedure

Policy overview

1 Purpose

To support the rights of both Students and Employees to achieve their full potential free from Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification.

2 Scope

This policy and procedure applies to all persons involved in University related activities including Employees of the University (including visiting and adjunct appointments), University contractors, consultants whether or not they are Employees and those who provide services to the University community.

This policy and procedure may also apply to Student complaints against University Employees.

Complaints made against an Employee will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may be referred to the Executive Director, Human Resources at Stage 2 (Further Advice and Assistance) or Stage 3 (Investigation), depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint.

3 Policy Statement

The University of Southern Queensland is actively committed to protecting the rights of both Students and Employees to achieve their full potential in an environment which values and affirms diversity and is free from Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification. The University will take all reasonable steps to ensure that Employees and Students will be treated fairly and with dignity and respect whilst working or studying at the University.

As outlined in the Code of Conduct Policy, Employees are responsible for making themselves aware of and adhering to University policies on all forms of Discrimination and Harassment. Discrimination and Harassment will not be tolerated at the University of Southern Queensland under any circumstances and may in fact be unlawful under State or Commonwealth law.

This policy and procedure has been developed with the objective of preventing Discrimination and Harassment from occurring, and for providing a mechanism for resolving Discrimination and Harassment complaints when they occur. The emphasis is on resolving complaints through a process which encourages informal resolution, where possible and that is conducted in an expeditious and confidential manner, with access to formal mechanisms for resolving complaints, if required.

All Managers and Supervisors have an obligation and responsibility to promote a workplace free of Discrimination, Harassment and intimidation whether this is between Supervisors and Employees or between Employees or between Students and Employees. All complaints will be managed in an encouraging environment without any Victimisation of those involved in the complaint or following the complaint.

4 Principles

This policy and procedure can be used to resolve complaints of Discrimination, Harassment (including Workplace Harassment), Vilification or Victimisation on the basis of one or more of the following attributes from the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991:

  • sex
  • relationship status
  • parental status
  • race
  • religious belief or activity
  • political belief or activity
  • impairment
  • trade union activity
  • lawful sexual activity
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • family responsibilities
  • gender identity
  • sexuality
  • age
  • or an association with, or relation to, a person identified on the basis of any of the above attributes.

This policy and procedure is based on the following principles:

  • Complaints of Discrimination and Harassment will be treated seriously by the University and will be managed promptly in a thorough and confidential manner ensuring that complainants and witnesses are not victimised. Where an Employee has raised Discrimination and Harassment concerns but does not wish to lodge a Formal Complaint, the University has a responsibility to take these matters seriously and may be obligated to investigate these concerns further where they are considered to be of a serious nature serious nature and have the capacity to impact on an Employee's health and safety, or another Employee or Student's health and safety. The principle of natural justice will apply and will guide the application of this policy and procedures.
  • Complaints will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible with resolution as close as possible to the source.
  • Complaints managed under these procedures will normally be dealt with and finalised within 21 days, where practicable.
  • Complaints will be dealt with promptly and sensitively by qualified and authorised officers.
  • All parties involved in the resolution processes are encouraged to participate in good faith and the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness will be observed.
  • At any time, a Complainant may withdraw the complaint, seek assistance from a Nominated Representative, or lodge a complaint with an external agency, as appropriate.
  • The complaint resolution process will be carried out in good faith and complaints that are found to be frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance will be rejected if a preliminary investigation of the facts indicates.
  • The University may initiate disciplinary procedure investigations immediately in response to allegations of conduct or behaviour that may be considered misconduct or serious misconduct. Complaints which are made in good faith are not vexatious complaints, even if the complaint is not eventually substantiated.
  • The University reserves the right to take disciplinary action against persons who knowingly lodge a vexatious complaint.

5 Procedures

5.1 Manager and Supervisor responsibilities

All Managers and Supervisors have an obligation and a responsibility to ensure that no form of Discrimination or Harassment takes place at the workplace, whether this is between Supervisors and Employees, between Employees or between Employees and Students. This includes ensuring that a culture of unacceptable behaviour is not allowed to develop. Employees should be given clear guidance about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable workplace behaviour.

The following are examples of unacceptable workplace behaviour:

  • pin-ups, sexually suggestive calendars on notice-boards or desks
  • bantering or malicious gossip
  • making one particular employee the target of jokes
  • loud personal comments about, or to, colleagues
  • common use of offensive language or suggestive comments
  • aggressive style of management.

Further examples of Workplace Harassment as described under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 are contained in the Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment Policy.

Managers and Supervisors have a duty to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities in the prevention and resolution of complaints of Workplace Harassment and to ensure that complaints of Discrimination and Harassment are dealt with in a supportive environment without Victimisation or intimidation of any person connected with a complaint during or subsequent to resolution. It is the primary responsibility of Supervisors to take all reasonable steps to prevent and resolve complaints in their work areas. Supervisors need to recognise the early signs of disharmony in their teams and to take early, sensitive and positive steps to prevent and resolve complaints between their Employees. Supervisors should not wait until someone makes a complaint before taking action. If a complaint is made, it is the supervisor's responsibility to seek to resolve the issue.

It is the responsibility of the Manager or Supervisor to:

  • inform all Employees of the actions they can take if they feel they are being harassed
  • address and resolve any Informal Complaint(s). Staff Equity and Diversity within Human Resources can provide advice or assistance if required to inform those who experience Discrimination and Harassment of their rights and provide them with the relevant complaint resolution process
  • inform all Employees of designated Harassment Contact Officers and their availability
  • ensure that all Employees are sufficiently informed prior to an Investigation in the workplace, whilst protecting confidentiality
  • ensure that people who make a complaint are not victimised for doing so
  • ensure that the policies and procedures in relation to the making of a complaint or resolution are followed
  • inform all Employees and Students that Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification are disciplinary offences and that if claims are substantiated, disciplinary procedures may be invoked
  • provide a room where confidential discussions can take place
  • ensure that the workplace is supportive to an Employee on the completion of any Investigation
  • ensure that the Complainant not be made to feel that they should take certain action, or no action because of their responsibility to Employees.

If an Informal Complaint is made to a Manager or Supervisor, the manager/supervisor has the responsibility to:

  • listen to the complaint, discuss the options available and the possible outcomes
  • refer the Employee to a Harassment Contact Officer or Human Resources for more detailed information and guidance on procedures
  • provide the Employee with a copy of the Discrimination and Harassment and Complaint Resolution Policies and Procedures
  • speak to the Employee informally if the complainant wishes, to see if the situation can be resolved without taking formal action.

Managers and Supervisors have responsibilities to manage and supervise their Employees, particularly with regard to unsatisfactory performance of duties. Therefore, workplace harassment must not be confused with Reasonable Management Action, carried out in a reasonable manner, from Managers and Supervisors regarding an individual's work performance. Such comment and advice may include critical statements and feedback, along with ongoing monitoring and review of performance. Similarly, vigorous academic discourse is an appropriate activity within a University, but academic Supervisors have a duty to ensure this does not descend into Workplace Harassment.

5.2 Stages of complaint resolution

Normally in resolving complaints of Harassment and Discrimination the University applies a three stage process. The emphasis of this process is to seek resolution as soon as possible with resolution occurring at the lowest possible level. The three stages are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Initial Action.
  • Stage 2: Further Advice and Assistance.
  • Stage 3: Investigation.

Stage 1 and 2 are informal processes. They allow parties to make informed decisions and assist them in resolving the issues. They do not involve a formal Investigation or the determination of evidence. Employees are encouraged to resolve complaints between themselves, where possible.

A person must normally progress through Stage 1 prior to commencing Stage 2.

The University maintains a register of Harassment Contact Officers who are trained to provide information and support for these procedures. Harassment Contact Officers will assist the Complainant to decide whether the complaints constitute Discrimination or Harassment, advise them of their rights and explore possible options with them.

Stage 3 is a formal procedure and will only be used when the matter cannot be resolved informally. It involves the making of a Formal Written Complaint after which an Investigation of the allegation of Discrimination or Harassment occurs and an outcome is then imposed on the parties.

At any time a complaint may progress straight to the Human Resources Department if the allegations involve alleged criminal activity by an Employee and pose an immediate risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of any member/s of the University community.

5.3 Complaint resolution procedures for Workplace Harassment (Workplace Bullying)

As a general rule, if one of the parties concerned in a Workplace Harassment or Workplace Bullying complaint has to be removed from the workplace then, as a matter of principle, the University will normally remove the harasser rather than the Complainant, except in instances where this arrangement is not practical to ensure the ongoing business operations of the University, or where there are genuine health and safety concerns for the Complainant.

A flowchart (PDF* 19kb) of the complaint resolution procedure for Workplace Harassment or Workplace Bullying is available.

5.3.1 Stage 1: Initial Action

If an individual feels they are being harassed at work, there are a number of things that can be done to stop the Harassment. It is up to the individual what they choose to do.

  • Individuals can talk to, or write to, the harasser, explain that their behaviour is unacceptable, ask them to stop and/or quote the Workplace Harassment definition, which states that Workplace Harassment is repeated, unreasonable behaviour that results in the less favourable treatment of a person or a group of persons, by another or others in the workplace, and that creates a risk to health and safety. Unreasonable behaviour is behaviour that is offensive, humiliating, intimidating, degrading or threatening and which may cause distress to an individual.
  • Talk to an Employee, a USQ Harassment Contact Officer or Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources). Individuals can talk to the USQ Harassment Contact Officer informally and in confidence about what is happening. The Harassment Contact Officer will listen and discuss the options that can be taken and generally provide support. A Harassment Contact Officer can accompany the individual to see their manager if they wish to take matters further. The contact officer will offer support before, during and after any informal or formal action the individual might choose to take.

The role of Harassment Contact Officer is to ensure that the individual is able to make an informed choice about further action.

The same Harassment Contact Officer will not deal with more than one individual in any particular case. A Harassment Contact Officer who handles the initial complaint cannot be part of an Investigation, or involved in initiating disciplinary action; or liaise directly with the Anti-Discrimination Commission if a Formal Complaint has been lodged under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 or Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

5.3.2 Stage 2: Further Advice and Assistance

If an individual feels they are being harassed at work, an individual can make an Informal Complaint to their Manager. Managers and Supervisors must attempt to resolve Informal Complaints by following the steps below:

  • Managers will listen, discuss the options available and the possible outcomes. The Manager should listen to the Complainant, discuss formal and informal options and outline possible outcomes. The Complainant should not be made to feel that they should take certain action because of their responsibility to other Employees. It must be stated that there will be no Victimisation of the Complainant.
  • Managers and Supervisors must ensure that all discussions are held in confidence with a workplace colleague, Harassment Contact Officer or Nominated Representative present, if desired, by the Complainant.
  • Managers and Supervisors can seek advice or ask for assistance from Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources).

The Complainant can ask the Manager to speak to the Respondent informally if they wish, to see if the situation can be resolved without taking formal action. The Manager should contact the Respondent on an informal basis with a view to resolving the complaint without formal action. The Complainant's allegations should be stated verbally to the Respondent and the Respondent should be advised that it is an informal meeting but that they may be accompanied by a Nominated Representative.

The Complainant may also request that the matter be dealt with through a neutral third party Mediation process. The Manager also has the option of suggesting that resolution by a neutral third party or Mediator be undertaken, and may take steps to initiate this process if both parties to the complaint are in agreement.

Notes must be made of the meeting between the Manager and Complainant and agreed by both. Notes must also be made of any meeting between the Respondent and the Manager and agreed by both. These notes should be retained by the Manager.

If the outcome of the Informal Complaint is not satisfactory to the Complainant, they should be informed of the process for taking formal action and any other options.

5.3.3 Stage 3: Investigation

Where the complainant believes that the Informal Complaint has not been resolved, and wishes to pursue the matter further, the complaint must be lodged in writing with the Executive Director, Human Resources. There is an expectation that a complainant will have tried to resolve the allegations informally in the first instance unless they can show that it would be inappropriate.

The written complaint must contain sufficient details to establish that the complaint has substance and is not frivolous or vexatious. The written complaint should also particularise what stages have been taken to resolve the matter informally. All complaints will be dealt with on merit, however if any claim is found to be frivolous or vexatious the University may take action in accordance with 5.3.4. A complaint made in good faith is not a vexatious complaint, even if the complaint is eventually not substantiated. The individual must be prepared to provide a written statement that they will be required to sign.

On receipt of the written complaint(s), the Executive Director, Human Resources may refer the written complaint back to the Manager or Supervisor in accordance with 5.3.2 if it is established that the informal process has not occurred. The Manager and the Respondent will be informed of the allegations.

Where it is established that the complaint is properly founded, the Executive Director, Human Resources will initiate an Investigation. The Executive Director, Human Resources will appoint a suitable person, who may be external to the University, to conduct the Investigation. Where a complaint is not properly founded or unsubstantiated then no further action will be taken. The Executive Director, Human Resources will advise the Complainant and Respondent of this decision.

Where the complaint is properly founded, the Executive Director, Human Resources will provide the Respondent with a copy of the Complainant's written complaint as soon as practicable. The Respondent will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations within 10 working days, where practicable.

The person conducting the Investigation will act expeditiously and will have access to all persons and relevant information to fully investigate the matter, consistent with the principles of natural justice. This formal Investigation may entail gathering evidence, interviewing both the Complainant and the Respondent separately or other Employees.

The Complainant may be accompanied by a Nominated Representative. A Respondent may be accompanied by a Nominated Representative.

Confidentiality will be respected and maintained at all times during the Investigation process, within the constraints of needing to fully investigate the complaint, consistent with the principles of natural justice.

The outcomes of the Investigation will be forwarded to the Executive Director, Human Resources for consideration. The Executive Director, Human Resources will review the outcomes and any recommendations made by the investigator and commence appropriate action to resolve the complaint.

The Executive Director, Human Resources will advise both the Complainant and the Respondent of the Executive Director's decision and any action to be taken.

The Complainant is guaranteed that whatever the outcome of the action, they will not be victimised.

If the allegations are substantiated, the Respondent may be subject to disciplinary action.

5.3.4 Disciplinary action

Where Workplace Harassment is found to have occurred, this may be considered as misconduct or serious misconduct and disciplinary action may be commenced against the Respondent against whom the findings were made.

Where disciplinary action is recommended the Executive Director, Human Resources will advise the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor will determine whether or not disciplinary action should be commenced against the person(s) subject to the findings.

Where it is determined that disciplinary action should commence, the process of Clause 33 Disciplinary Action and Clause 34 Disciplinary Action for Misconduct or Serious Misconduct of the Enterprise Agreement 2010 - 2013, or the provisions of any other relevant contract of employment, will apply.

The Vice-Chancellor will provide written advice of the decision to both the Complainant and the Respondent(s) against whom the complaint was made.

The University may take action against a person(s) making a frivolous or vexatious complaint. Any person(s) found to have made such a complaint may be subject to the University's disciplinary procedures as contained in the Enterprise Agreement 2010-2013 or other relevant contract of employment.

A flowchart (PDF* 19kb) of the complaint resolution procedure for Discrimination and Harassment related complaints (including Sexual Harassment) is available.

5.4.1 Stage 1: Initial Action

All enquiries and complaints should be directed to a Harassment Contact Officer.

The role of the Harassment Contact Officer is to act fairly and impartially to provide information and support, in confidence to:

  • Employees of the University community who perceive that they may have experienced Discrimination or Harassment, or who believe that an allegation of Discrimination or Harassment may be or has been made against them.
  • Employees who believe that they have been vilified on the basis of their race or religion or who believe that an allegation of Vilification may be or has been made against them.
  • Employees who believe they have been victimised as a consequence of taking action or being presumed to have taken action under these procedures.

The role of Harassment Contact Officer is to ensure that the individual is able to make an informed choice about further action.

The same Harassment Contact Officer will not deal with more than one individual in any particular case. A Harassment Contact Officer who handles the initial complaint cannot be part of an Investigation, or involved in initiating disciplinary action; or liaise directly with the Anti-Discrimination Commission if a Formal Complaint has been lodged under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 or Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

5.4.1.1 Responsibilities of Harassment Contact Officers

A Harassment Contact Officer will not disclose any information about the Complainant without their written consent and will protect the privacy of their individual at all times. However the Harassment Contact Officer may disclose to the Executive Director, Human Resources information about criminal acts or their belief that one of the parties may pose a threat to an individual or the community. The Executive Director, Human Resources will then consult as necessary and take appropriate action.

Where the complaint involves offences under the Criminal Code such as sexual assault, rape, indecent exposure, assault, stalking or obscene communication which has occurred on University property, the Employee, will be informed of their right to report the matter to police and will be provided with information on the nearest sexual assault service. The complaint will be immediately forwarded by the Harassment Contact Officer to Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) or Student Equity Office for actioning.

Harassment Contact Officers should undertake awareness raising sessions with Employees and Students and disseminate materials and information across all University campuses.

Harassment Contact Officers must forward the Statistical Data Collection Sheet and other records to Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) as required. These records must contain meeting dates, persons attending and the outcomes including the preferred course of action (if any) and any undertaking the Harassment Contact Officer makes to them. Records must be forwarded to Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) to ensure Discrimination and Harassment matters are managed consistently across the University.

The University is committed to maintaining the privacy of personal information. All personal information collected under the Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution Policy and Procedure will be held and used in accordance with the University's Privacy Policy.

5.4.2 Stage 2: Further Advice and Assistance

If an individual feels they are being harassed or discriminated against they can request that the matter be dealt with through a neutral third party Mediation process. Where Mediation is requested, the Harassment Contact Officer notifies Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) and forwards them the file. Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) will liaise between the parties to identify an acceptable Mediator. The purpose of the Mediation will be to assist both parties to reach an agreed solution to the matter with a view to enabling them to continue to work in a manner acceptable to both.

Once the request for Mediation has been received, the Respondent will be approached by Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) with an invitation to attend a confidential Mediation session. They will receive information about the procedure of the Mediation, a list of Contact Officers who can provide additional information and support and a written outline of the matters to be discussed at the Mediation. At least one week's notice will be provided to the Respondent of a Mediation.

Each party will be advised that they may be accompanied by a Nominated Representative during the Mediation process.

Mediators should keep sufficient confidential notes as necessary to conduct the mediation process. If the Mediation continues over a period of time, the file should be kept locked in a secure place within Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) and when finalised, all notes will be provided to Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) The file will include the names of the persons participating in the Mediation and the dates of all meetings.

No other records of the Mediation process will be kept unless it forms part of a written agreement. If a confidential written agreement is the outcome of Mediation, the parties may each retain a copy and one is kept in the secured file by Human Resources.

If Mediation is unsuccessful in reaching an agreement, the Complainant has the option of proceeding to Stage 3: Investigation.

5.4.3 Stage 3: Investigation

If Mediation is unsuccessful, and if the complainant wishes to pursue the matter further, a Formal Complaint must be lodged in writing to the Executive Director, Human Resources. There is an expectation that a Complainant will have tried to resolve the allegations informally in the first instance unless they can show that it would be inappropriate.

The written complaint must contain sufficient details to establish that the complaint has substance and is not frivolous or vexatious. The written complaint should also particularise what stages have been taken to resolve the matter informally. All complaints will be dealt with on merit, however if any complaint is found to be frivolous or vexatious the University may take action in accordance with 5.4.4. A complaint made in good faith is not a vexatious complaint, even if the complaint is eventually not substantiated. The individual must be prepared to provide a written statement that they will be required to sign.

Where it is established that the complaint is properly founded, the Executive Director, Human Resources will initiate an Investigation. Where a complaint is not properly founded or unsubstantiated then no further action will be taken. The Executive Director, Human Resources will advise the Complainant and Respondent of this decision.

Where the complaint is properly founded, the Executive Director, Human Resources will provide the Respondent with a copy of the Complainant's written complaint as soon as practicable. The Respondent will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations within 10 working days, where practicable.

The Executive Director, Human Resources will appoint a suitable person, who may be external to the University to conduct an Investigation.

  • The person conducting the Investigation will act expeditiously and will have access to all persons and relevant information to fully investigate the matter, consistent with the principles of natural justice. This formal Investigation may entail gathering evidence, interviewing the Respondent and interviewing other Employees.
  • The Complainant may be accompanied by a Nominated Representative. A Respondent may be accompanied by a Nominated Representative.
  • Confidentiality will be respected and maintained at all times during the Investigation process, within the constraints of needing to fully investigate the complaint, consistent with the principles of natural justice.

The outcomes of the Investigation will be forwarded to the Executive Director, Human Resources for consideration. The Executive Director, Human Resources will review the outcomes and any recommendations made by the investigator and commence appropriate action to resolve the complaint.

The Executive Director, Human Resources will advise both the Complainant and the Respondent of the Executive Director's decision and any action to be taken.

The University will take all reasonable steps to ensure that whatever the outcome of the action, the Complainant will not be victimised.

If the allegations are substantiated, the Respondent may be subject to disciplinary action.

5.4.4 Disciplinary action

Where Discrimination or Harassment is found to have occurred, this may be considered as misconduct or serious misconduct and disciplinary action may be commenced against the person against whom the findings were made.

Where disciplinary action is recommended the Executive Director, Human Resources will advise the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor will determine whether or not disciplinary action should be commenced against the person(s) subject to the findings.

Where it is determined that disciplinary action should commence, the process of Clause 33 Disciplinary Action and Clause 34 Disciplinary Action for Misconduct or Serious Misconduct of the Enterprise Agreement 2010 - 2013, or the provisions of any other relevant contract of employment, will apply.

The Vice-Chancellor will provide written advice of the decision to both the Complainant and the individual(s) against whom the complaint was made.

The University may take action against frivolous or vexatious complaints. Any person(s) found to have made such a complaint may be subject to the University's disciplinary procedures as contained in the Enterprise Agreement 2010 - 2013 or other relevant contract of employment.

6 Delegated responsibilities

Approver

Level of Delegation

Vice-Chancellor

Decision

Executive Director, Human Resources

Ensure matters proceed in accordance with other relevant policies and timeframes; and to provide procedure and process recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor.

7 Policy Information

Accountable Officer

Executive Director, Human Resources

Policy Type

Regulated Policy and Procedure

Approved Date

20/12/2013

Effective Date

1/1/2014

Review Date

Relevant Legislation

University of Southern Queensland Certified Agreement 2010 - 2013, Clause 33, Clause 34

Anti-Discrimination Act 1991

Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010

Fair Work Act 2009

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Prevention of Workplace Harassment Code of Practice 2004

Sex Discrimination Act 1984

Related Policies

Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment Policy

Disciplinary Action for Misconduct or Serious Misconduct Policy and Procedure

Termination of Employment Policy and Procedure

Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure

Code of Conduct Policy

Harassment and Discrimination Complaint Resolution for Students Policy and Procedure

Employees with a Disability Policy and Procedure
Grievance Policy and Procedure

Related Procedures

Student Expectations and Responsibilities

Prevention of Workplace Violence Procedure

Related forms, publications and websites

Staff Equity and Diversity website

Student Equity website

Public Interest Disclosure website

Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer website

Identifying and responding to workplace harassment website

Definitions

Complainant

A person who has made a complaint of Discrimination and Harassment against another person of the University community

Designated Officer

A person with whom a Student or Employee may speak to in regard to a Discrimination or Harassment related concern in order to receive information and explore options on resolving the concern. This may include a Harassment Contact Officer, an Employee from the Student Equity Office, the Student Guild, or Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources).

Discrimination

Unlawful Discrimination occurs when a person or a group of people are treated less favourably than another person or group because of race, colour, national or ethnic origin; gender or marital status; disability; religion or political beliefs; sexual preference; or some other central characteristic. Discrimination may occur when a person is denied the opportunity to participate freely and fully in normal day-to-day activities, for example being harassed in the workplace or being denied entry to public places and other facilities.

Formal complaint

A written complaint of Discrimination or Harassment against an Employee of the University which has been lodged with the Executive Director, Human Resources and which may lead to an Investigation of allegations.

Harassment

Unlawful Harassment occurs when a person is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex; disability; sexual preference; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation. Harassment may include behaviour, comments or images which a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Harassment Contact Officer

A number of appointed University representatives across each Campus who have been trained to assist with information and provide support in relation to complaints of Discrimination and Harassment. The list of Harassment Contact Officers can be found under the University website links to Staff Equity and Diversity (Human Resources) and the Student Equity Office

Informal Complaint

A discussion with a designated officer in regard to a Discrimination or Harassment related concern in order to receive information and explore options on resolving the concern. It does not involve a formal Investigation or the determination of evidence.

Investigation

A formal proceeding undertaken by a qualified officer, appointed by the University, to assess a complaint of Discrimination or Harassment in order to establish its veracity and recommend possible action. This may include disciplinary action. Investigation requires interviewing both Complainant and Respondent, any relevant witnesses and reviewing any relevant documentation or records to corroborate such testimony.

Manager/Supervisor

Any person responsible for leading the activities of others. That is: academic employees in charge of classes, Employees leading other work teams, or leaders of groups using or visiting University facilities.

Supervisors may also be individuals from the University who support students in their research.

Mediation

Mediation is a way of settling a dispute without legal action. It is a confidential meeting between people in conflict, with mediators present. Mediators are there to guide the discussion between the people in conflict so that they can work out an agreement which suits them all. Mediators remain neutral - they do not take sides, give advice, or pass judgement. The Mediator tries to guide the discussion in a way that optimises parties' needs, takes feelings into account and reframes representations.

Mediator

An individual appointed by the University to assist the Complainant and Respondent to negotiate a solution which is acceptable to both of them but not to determine what that solution will be. Mediators are trained in mediation procedures relevant to Discrimination and Harassment.

Nominated Representative

Means in relation to an Employee, a person selected by the Employee to assist or represent the Employee. The person may be an officer or Employee of the relevant Union, or any other person chosen by the Employee. In relation to the University, it means a person selected by the University to assist or represent the University. The person may be an Employee of the University, or an officer or Employee of AHEIA, or any other person selected by the University. The nominated representative must not be a practising barrister or solicitor and must not present a conflict of interest.

Reasonable Management Action

Reasonable Management Action, carried out in a reasonable manner, is behaviour expressly excluded from workplace harassment (bullying) claims. The behaviour must be lawful management action; it must be reasonable for the management action to be taken; and the management action must be carried out in a manner that is reasonable, taking into consideration the circumstances. It includes action such as responding to poor performance, taking necessary disciplinary action and effectively directly and controlling the way work is carried out.

Respondent

A member of the University community against whom a complaint has been made, the subject of which is being considered under this policy and procedure.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated, or where a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances. Examples of Sexual Harassment include staring, leering or unwelcome touching; suggestive comments or jokes; sexually explicit pictures or posters; unwanted invitations to go out on dates; requests for sex; intrusive questions about a person's life or body, sexually explicit physical contact such as touching a person, brushing up against them, patting, pinching or hugging. Extreme forms of Sexual Harassment can involve sexual assault and rape which are criminal acts.

Sexual Harassment is not behaviour which is based on mutual attraction, friendship and respect. If the interaction is consensual, welcome and reciprocated it is not Sexual Harassment.

The University recognises that Sexual Harassment is an abuse that can be experienced by either gender and regardless of the sexual orientation of the persons involved.

Victimisation

Victimisation is any unfavourable treatment, or threats of unfavourable treatment against a person as a result of their actual or intended involvement in a complaint under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 or under any of these procedures. The involvement might include making a complaint, supplying information and producing documents to someone making a complaint or appearing as a witness in a proceeding under the Act. Unfavourable treatment may include adverse changes to their study or work environment, denial of access to resources, work opportunities or training, ignoring the person or lower assessment of student work. Victimisation is an offence under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

Vilification

Vilification is the public incitement of hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of a person on the basis of the race, religion, sexuality or gender identify of a person or members of a group. Vilification includes threatening physical harm to a person or their property or inciting others to threaten physical harm to a person or to their property. Vilification is an offence against the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

Workplace Harassment and Bullying

Workplace Harassment (Bullying), under the Fair Work Act 2009, occurs where an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards an employee or group of employees at work, and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. Within this definition:

  • Repeated Behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can range in behaviours over time.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour is behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, may see as unreasonable. This may include but is not limited to behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.
  • A Risk to Health and Safety means the possibility of danger to health and safety, and is not confined to actual danger to health and safety.

Keywords

Discrimination, harassment, vilification, victimisation, resolution, complaint, bullying

TRIM Record No

13/301PL

 

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