Know your Rights

Hopefully you will have a job where you feel safe and comfortable but unfortunately employees are sometimes put in unfair situations, either from employers or other workers. In these times it is important to know you rights and to know how to keep yourself safe.
In Australia, every worker has the right to a safe, comfortable workplace where they are not discriminated against, bullied, harassed or refused fair treatment.

Discrimination

Regardless of gender, disability, race or ethnicity, immigration status, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political opinion, trade union affiliation or criminal record, no worker deserves to be treated unfairly. If you believe you have been treated unfairly in the workplace, either by an employer or a fellow worker, it is really important to say something.

If being treated unfairly by a co-worker:

  • Speak to your employer
  • Speak to someone from the Human Resources Department (if you have one)
  • Speak to Fairwork (link below) or The Human Rights Commissioner (link below)
  • Also if you feel you need some personal help or support, call Lifeline (13 11 14)

If being treated unfairly by your employer:

  • Speak to someone from the Human Resources Department (if you have one)
  • Speak to Fairwork (link below) or The Human Rights Commissioner (link below)
  • Also if you feel you need some personal help or support, call Lifeline (13 11 14)

Bullying and Sexual Harassment

Bullying

Bullying in the workplace is any behaviour that is physically, socially or psychologically harmful, intimidating, violent or abusive. Bullying can happen to anyone and likewise, can be perpetrated by anyone but like discrimination, bullying in the workplace is never acceptable.

What is bullying not?

While work will sometimes seem unfair, bullying is an activity that is intentionally harmful to others. Bullying does not include:

  • Being given work tasks that are boring or frustrating
  • Being fired, transferred, demoted, retrenched or disciplined by your supervisor/employer with a valid reason
  • Being constructively criticized based on the quality of your work

NOTE: If you are under 16 years old, bullying in the workplace may also constitute child abuse, so visit the Lawstuff website to find out more about the policies of your state or territory.

Sexual Harassment

Often considered another form of workplace bullying; sexual harassment is any unwelcomed sexual advances or behaviour that occur within the workplace. These can be written, verbal or physical and can often leave victims feeling intimidated, humiliated and affronted. Once again, this behaviour is unfair and completely unacceptable.

If you are being bullied or sexually harassed

  • Speak to your employer, if you feel safe doing so
  • Speak to someone from the Human Resources Department (if you have one)
  • Speak to Fairwork (link below) or The Human Rights Commissioner (link below)
  • Also if you feel you need some personal help or support, call Lifeline (13 11 14)
  • And if the bullying becomes physical or starts to enter your personal life, call the Police.

In cases of workplace discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment, avoid:

  • Confronting the person directly as this may make the problem worse or put you at greater risk
  • Gossiping about the problem in the workplace
  • Retaliating against your bully… this will only make you a bully too
  • Quitting your job just to escape the bullying (everyone is entitled to a safe work environment so quitting without solving the problem won’t stop the bully hurting others in future)

In many of the above situations you might not want to speak up, as you may be afraid of losing your job. However, remember that if you don’t talk to someone about the problem it may get worse, it may begin to negatively affect your mental health or your silence may cause this treatment to happen to others or for the perpetrator to think that it is acceptable behaviour.
Don’t forget; discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment are never okay!

Links:
Australian Human Rights Commission
Fair Work Australia Ombudsman