Discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace

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Discrimination occurs where someone is treated less favourably than another employee or employees due to a particular protected attribute, for example age sex or political conviction. This does not require a level of aggression, although sometimes that is implicit. There are many acts of discrimination, for example not being treated fairly in pursuit of a promotion due to pregnancy which might constitute workplace discrimination. Indirect discrimination is treated the same as direct discrimination, for example an employer having an equal opportunity policy, but not applying it.

Harassment in the workplace may occur when an employee is unjustly and without cause treated in a way that is offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening because of a particular attribute, for example those particular attributes which are identified by Australia’s anti- discrimination laws. However, not all acts which can be categorized as harassment are technically a breach of workplace laws. For example being harassed by a colleague for promotion, or AFL sympathies, is unlawful. On the other hand sexual harassment, that is to say, unwelcome advances or attention of a sexual nature is expressly  prohibited by the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (CW) .

Bullying is a form of workplace harassment and is constituted by repeated unreasonable behaviour that places the affected person’s health or wellbeing at risk; yet this form of harassment has its own remedial jurisdiction in the Fair Work Commission.