Employee Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Complaints Policy and Procedure
- 1 Purpose
- 2 Scope
- 3 Policy Statement
- 4 Principles
- 5 Procedures
- 6 References
- 7 Schedules
- 8 Delegated responsibilities
- 9 Policy Information
To support the rights of both Students and Employees to achieve their full potential free from Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification, through a robust set of principles, responsibilities and procedures associated with preventing and resolving complaints of this nature made against University Employees.
This policy and procedure applies to all concerns and complaints raised against University Employees (including honorary, visiting and adjunct appointments) by any individuals involved in University related activities.
Where an individual (including a Student) has raised Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment concerns against a University Employee, the University will manage these concerns through the procedures outlined in this policy and procedure.
Where an individual (including an Employee) has raised Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment concerns against a Student, the University will manage these concerns through the procedures outlined in the Harassment and Discrimination Complaint Resolution for Students Policy and Procedure.
Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment concerns raised against members of University Council will be managed in accordance with the Complaints Against Council Members Policy and pursuant procedure.
3 Policy Statement
The University 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 Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification.
The University will take all reasonable steps and actions 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, Employees are responsible for making themselves aware of and adhering to University policies on all forms of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment. Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment will not be tolerated at the University under any circumstances and may in fact be unlawful under State or Commonwealth law.
The University acknowledges that individuals have a legislative workplace right to raise a complaint in accordance with this policy and procedure and that these rights are protected from certain unlawful actions, including but not limited to adverse action.
This policy and procedure has been developed with the objective of preventing Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment from occurring, and for providing a mechanism for resolving Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment concerns and complaints when they occur. The emphasis is on resolving concerns and 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 have an obligation and responsibility to promote an environment free of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination, Harassment and intimidation, whether this is between Managers and Employees or between Employees or between Students and Employees. All concerns and complaints will be managed in an encouraging environment without any Victimisation of those involved in the complaint or following the complaint.
This policy and procedure is based on the following principles:
- Complaints of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment will be treated seriously by the University and will be managed promptly in a thorough and confidential manner ensuring that all individuals, including witnesses, are not victimised. Any breach of confidentiality may result in disciplinary action taken in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code of Conduct, USQ Enterprise Agreement or the relevant senior employment contract.
- All parties involved in complaint resolution processes are encouraged to participate in good faith and the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness will be observed.
- Where an individual has raised Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or 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 pursue these concerns further where they are considered to be of a serious nature and create a risk to an individual's health and safety.
- Individuals making Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment complaints will be supported by the University to make resolution decisions and to take action to resolve their concerns.
- 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 experienced and authorised officers.
- At any time, an individual may withdraw the complaint, seek assistance from a Nominated Representative, or lodge a complaint with an external agency, as appropriate.
- Complaints will be rejected if a preliminary Investigation of the facts indicates that they are found to be frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance.
- Complaints which are made in good faith are not vexatious complaints, even if the complaint is not eventually substantiated.
- Individuals are encouraged to raise genuine concerns without fear about unlawful, negligent or improper public sector conduct where they fall within this policy and procedure and are consistent with the definitions in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld).
- Individuals advised of concerns which may be regarded as a matter that requires attention under the Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure should also refer this matter to the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator.
- The University may initiate disciplinary procedure Investigations immediately in response to allegations of conduct or behaviour that may be considered misconduct or serious misconduct and reserves the right to take disciplinary action against persons who knowingly lodge a vexatious complaint.
- Where required by legislation, the University may notify relevant external agencies and reporting bodies of matters as necessary.
4.1 Individual responsibilities
As outlined in the University Code of Conduct, University Members are responsible for making themselves aware of and adhering to University policy and procedure on all forms of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment.
Employees and Students are encouraged to take responsibility and ownership for making decisions on how they would like the concerns to be resolved. Individuals can access information, support and assistance from Managers, Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officers, Human Resources, the Student Guild, Union representatives and Student Services to determine the resolution option that they would like to progress.
The University will consult with the individual in relation to the processes that will be taken to resolve the concerns raised.
4.2 Manager responsibilities
All Managers have an obligation and a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to ensure that no form of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment takes place in the University environment, whether this is between Managers and Employees, between Employees or between Employees and Students. This includes ensuring that a culture of unacceptable behaviour is not allowed to develop. Individuals should be given clear guidance about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behaviour in the University environment.
Managers have a duty to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities in the prevention and resolution of complaints of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Harassment and Discrimination and to ensure that these complaints are dealt with in a supportive environment without Victimisation or intimidation of any individual connected with a Complaint during or subsequent to resolution.
It is the primary responsibility of Managers to take all reasonable steps to prevent and resolve complaints raised in their area/s of responsibility. Managers need to recognise the early signs of disharmony and to take early, sensitive and positive steps to prevent and resolve complaints. Managers should not wait until an individual makes a complaint before taking action, and if a complaint is made, it is a Manager's responsibility to assist the individual to resolve the issue. Depending on the scope and nature of the complaint, Human Resources, Student Services or other University work area (as relevant to the nature of the complaint) will manage the complaint resolution process in consultation with the individuals concerned.
It is the responsibility of a Manager to:
- inform individuals of the actions they can take if they feel they are being harassed
- inform individuals who are the subject of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Harassment or Discrimination concerns of their rights and provide them with the relevant complaint resolution process
- inform individuals that Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification may, where substantiated, result in the commencement of disciplinary procedures
- inform individuals of designated Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officers and their availability, and additionally for Students, inform them of the support available from the Student Guild
- address any complaint process through consultation with the impacted individual or individuals. Human Resources can provide advice or assistance if required to inform Employees who experience Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment of their rights and provide them with the relevant complaint resolution process
- ensure that individuals 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
- ensure that the matter is handled confidentially and privately
- ensure that individuals are sufficiently informed prior to an Investigation, whilst protecting confidentiality
- ensure that the environment is supportive of individuals on the completion of any Investigation
- ensure that an individual not be made to feel that they should take certain action, or no action, because of their responsibility to other individuals.
4.2.1 Reasonable Management Action
Managers have responsibilities to manage and supervise their Employees and Workplace Bullying and Harassment must not be confused with Reasonable Management Action, carried out in a reasonable manner.
Management action must be reasonable and may include but is not limited to undertaking performance reviews, effectively directing and controlling the way work is carried out, counselling Employees, rostering and allocating working hours and informing Employees particularly with regard to the unsatisfactory performance of duties. Such comment and advice may include critical statements and feedback, along with ongoing monitoring and review of performance.
Similarly, Employees who teach, supervise or support Students also have a responsibility to provide constructive comment on Student performance and progress.
4.3 University responsibilities
The University will:
- maintain a pool of designated Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officers and ensure they are adequately trained
- provide training and professional development opportunities for Employees and Managers to raise awareness of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment in the University and provide strategies to prevent this occurring
- ensure Managers and Employees have access to training on their rights and responsibilities, including mandatory induction and refresher training
- provide accessible information in relevant policies, procedures, schedules and websites regarding access to internal and external avenues of support for individuals in relation to Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment concerns.
This procedure outlines the broad stages associated with resolving Complaints associated with Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination, Harassment, Victimisation and Vilification at the University.
There are separate complaint resolution stages and processes to be followed depending upon the nature of the complaint.
The stages and processes involved in resolving concerns and complaints of Workplace Bullying and Harassment are outlined in the Employee Workplace Bullying and Harassment Complaint Resolution Schedule.
The stages and processes involved in resolving concerns and complaints of Discrimination and Harassment (including Sex Based Harassment) are outlined in the Employee Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution Schedule.
5.1 Stages of complaint resolution
Normally in resolving complaints of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination and Harassment, 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 individuals to make informed decisions and assist them in resolving the issues. They do not involve a formal Investigation or the determination of evidence. Individuals are encouraged to resolve complaints between themselves, where possible.
The University maintains a register of Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officers who are trained to provide information and support (not counselling) for these procedures. Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officers will assist an individual to decide whether the concerns constitute Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment, advise them of their rights and explore possible options with them.
Stage 3 is a formal procedure and will normally only be used when the matter cannot be resolved informally. It involves the making of a written formal complaint after which an Investigation of the allegation of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment occurs and an outcome is then imposed on the parties.
Normally, all complaints will be progressed through each of the complaint resolution stages and processes.
However, an individual can lodge an informal complaint (verbally or in writing) to start the process, and at any time an informal complaint may progress straight to the Human Resources Department if the allegations pose an immediate risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of any University member or involve alleged criminal activity by an Employee.
Complaints made against an Employee will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may be referred to the Director (Human Resources) at Stage 2 (Further Advice and Assistance) or Stage 3 (Investigation), depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint.
Where the complaint involves offences under the Criminal Code such as sexual assault, rape, indecent exposure, stalking or obscene communication which has occurred on University property, the individual will be informed of their right to report the matter to the police and will be provided with information on the nearest sexual assault service.
The University takes all complaints seriously and every effort will be made to provide support and assistance to individuals as required.
In some circumstances a complaint under this policy and procedure may also be regarded as a matter that requires attention under the Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure.
With the exception of complaints that are made in accordance with the University's Public Interest Disclosure Policy and Procedure, the University will not normally investigate anonymous complaints unless the issues raised within the complaint are of a serious nature and sufficient information is provided.
5.1.1 Employee Workplace Bullying and Harassment complaint resolution process
The stages and processes involved in resolving complaints of Workplace Bullying and Harassment against Employees are outlined in the Employee Workplace Bullying and Harassment Complaint Resolution Schedule.
A flowchart of the complaint resolution procedure for Workplace Bullying and Harassment is also available.
5.1.2 Employee Discrimination and Harassment complaint resolution process (including Sex Based Harassment)
The stages and processes involved in resolving complaints of Discrimination and Harassment against Employees are outlined in the Employee Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution Schedule.
A flowchart of the complaint resolution procedure for Discrimination and Harassment related complaints (including Sex Based Harassment) is also available.
This policy and procedure must be read in conjunction with its subordinate schedules as provided in the table below.
8 Delegated responsibilities
Level of Delegation
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
9 Policy Information
Executive Director (Finance and People Capability)
Regulated Policy and Procedure
Related forms, publications and websites
Terms defined in the Definitions Dictionary
Council means the governing body, the University of Southern Queensland Council....more
A person employed by the University and whose conditions of employment are covered by the USQ Enterprise Agreement and includes persons employed on a continuing, fixed term or casual basis. Employees also include senior employees whose conditions of employment are covered by a written agreement or contract with the University....more
Any of a) a person who is enrolled in a program or Course offered by the University; b) a Student of another university or higher educational institution who is granted temporary or on-going rights of access to University premises or facilities....more
The term 'University' or 'USQ' means the University of Southern Queensland....more
Definitions that relate to this policy only
A person who has made a Complaint of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment against another person of the University community.
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.
A confidential meeting between people in conflict, facilitated by a Manager or Human Resources representative. The meeting aims to discuss and resolve issues between individuals so that they can work out an agreement which suits them all. Managers and HR representatives who facilitate the meeting between parties are also obligated to counsel and advise individuals of expected behaviours in accordance with the USQ Code of Conduct and other appropriate policies, and identify any development opportunities for individuals involved.
A written complaint of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment against an Employee of the University which has been lodged with the Director (Human Resources) and which may lead to an Investigation of allegations.
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 and Discrimination Contact Officer
A University Employee who has volunteered to provide an initial point of contact for Employees and Students who have inquiries about any form of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination or Harassment. The Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officers are appointed by the Vice-Chancellor for a term of three years. The Harassment and Discrimination Contact Officer provides information and support (not counselling) about the resolution options available to Employees and Students.
Informal Complaints can be verbal or in writing. It can involve a discussion with relevant parties in regard to a Workplace Bullying and Harassment, 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.
A formal proceeding undertaken by an individual with appropriate experience and training appointed by the University, to assess a complaint of Workplace Bullying and Harassment, 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(s), any relevant witnesses and reviewing any relevant documentation or records to corroborate such testimony.
Any person responsible for leading the activities of others. In the context of this policy and procedure, a Manager includes:
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.
An individual with appropriate experience and training 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.
In relation to an Employee, means 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 Bullying and Harassment 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.
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.
Sex Based Harassment
Sex Based 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. Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature includes making a statement of a sexual nature to a person, or in another person's presence, whether orally or in writing. Examples of Sex Based 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. Some types of Sex Based Harassment may also be offences under criminal law. These include physical molestation or assault, indecent exposure, sexual assault, stalking and obscene communications.
Sex Based Harassment may occur:
Sex Based 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 Sex based Harassment is an abuse that can be experienced by either gender and regardless of the sexual orientation of the persons involved.
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 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. It can take several forms including hate-speech, graffiti, websites and the distribution of propaganda or other forms of offensive literature. 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 Queensland Act 1991.
Workplace Bullying and Harassment
Workplace Bullying and Harassment, 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:
Discrimination, harassment, vilification, victimisation, resolution, complaint, workplace bullying and harassment
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