Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

This policy outlines The University's commitment to ensuring that staff, students and visitors are not subjected to behaviours, practices or processes that may constitute discrimination, harassment, vilification, or victimisation.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Discrimination - less favourable treatment, or proposed less favourable treatment of a person on the basis of an Attribute.

Attribute - one of the 16 attributes contained within the Anti-Discrimination Act, Queensland (1991):

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

Vilification on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality or gender identity is also unlawful.

Direct Discrimination occurs on the basis of one (or more) of the above attributes, if a person treats, or proposes to treat, a person with an attribute less favourably than another person without the attribute is or would be treated in circumstances that are the same or not materially different.

Indirect Discrimination occurs on the basis of one (or more) of the above attributes, if a person imposes, or proposes to impose, a term –

• with which a person with an attribute does not or is not able to comply; and
• with which a higher proportion of people without the attribute comply or are able to comply; and
• that is not reasonable.

Whether a term is reasonable depends on all relevant circumstances of the case, including for example –

• the consequences of failure to comply with the term; and
• the cost of alternative terms; and the financial circumstances of the person who imposes, or proposes to impose, the term.

It is not necessary that the person imposing, or proposing to impose, the term is aware of the indirect discrimination.

‘Term' includes condition, requirement to practice whether or not written.

Harassment and/or bullying - behaviour towards an individual or group of individuals, that may or may not be based on the attributes referred to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act (1991) and could be defined as "the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates …" in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct”.

Harassment/bullying often involves a misuse of power. Harassment/bullying may occur between people of any gender. It can also occur between supervisor and staff, co-workers, students and between students and staff.

Harassment/bullying may be subtle or overt and includes, but is not limited to, the following forms of behaviour:

• Abusive and offensive language or shouting,
• Constant unreasonable criticism about work or academic performance, often about petty or insignificant matters,
• Deliberate exclusion, isolation or alienation of a staff member or student,
• Allocation of humiliating or demeaning tasks, or sabotaging a person's work,
• Setting of impossible deadlines with unrealistic expectations of work,
• Spreading gossip or false and malicious rumours with an intent to cause harm to a person,
• Sarcasm or ridicule,
• Threatening gestures or actual violence,
• Inappropriate comments about personal appearance,
• Electronic harassment such as through email, SMS,
• Hazing or bastardisation (such as harmful or humiliating initiation rituals).

Except in the case of Sexual Harassment, a single incident of harassing type behaviour does not, of itself, constitute workplace harassment. Nevertheless, such behaviour is unacceptable at The University of Queensland.

A reasonable and lawful direction of a supervisor will not constitute harassment /bullying for the purpose of this policy.

Appropriate provisions of guidance, conducting performance counselling, invoking diminished performance procedures, unsatisfactory performance procedures or misconduct procedures does not constitute harassment. Managers and lecturers are expected to offer constructive and legitimate advice and comment as a legitimate aspect of their role.

Sexual Harassment - Sexual Harassment is a serious issue and will not be tolerated at The University of Queensland. It is dealt with under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy. 

Victimisation - when a person does an act, or threatens to do an act against a person because:

• they have made a complaint, (complainant), or are associated with a person who has made a complaint, under this policy, or

• they have had a complaint made against them (respondent), or are associated with a person who has had a complaint made against them, under this policy.

Adverse action taken against a complainant may be unlawful under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and the Whistleblowers Protection Act (QLD). The University will not tolerate victimisation of a complainant, respondent or person legitimately associated with the resolution of a grievance.

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

This policy covers all staff and students of The University of Queensland who are engaged in University-related activity either on University property or off-campus. This includes volunteer workers or any other person whose workplace health and safety might be affected by the legitimate activities of the University.

4. Policy Statement

The University of Queensland is committed to developing and maintaining an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment and which promotes respect for persons, integrity, equitable treatment and natural justice.

As outlined in the Code of Conduct and in the Student Charter, The University actively discourages behaviours and actions that do not produce a positive, safe and respectful work and study environment.

Discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, will not be tolerated at the University of Queensland under any circumstances, and may be unlawful under State or Commonwealth law.

All staff and students have a responsibility to behave in a respectful and equitable manner towards other staff, students, and members of the community as detailed in the Staff Code of Conduct and Student Charter.

5. Managing Discrimination and Harassment

The University undertakes educative processes within the University community to develop awareness of issues related to discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment and provides mechanisms to deal with grievances under this policy.

Managers and supervisors have a particular responsibility to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the workplace is free from discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, and that relevant policies and procedures regarding the resolution of grievances are followed.

All areas of the University should regularly undertake a risk assessment process, which includes identifying the risk of discrimination or harassment, and take appropriate remedial action where necessary. (See Risk Management Process in How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks Code of Practice 2011. Further information can be found in the National Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying.)

People who feel that they may be experiencing discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment should refer to the Discrimination and Harassment Procedures.

Professor Alan Rix


Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment - Procedures

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These procedures outline the options available to staff and students who believe they have been subjected to discrimination or harassment.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

DHCO – Discrimination and Harassment Contact Officer

3. Procedures Scope/Coverage

These procedures apply to staff and students.

4. Procedures Statement

Staff and students who have a grievance related to discrimination, harassment or bullying may wish to take one or more of the following actions:

Staff and students who wish to pursue a grievance may seek resolution through following the Staff or Student Grievance Resolution Procedures.

Supervisors or managers to whom a complaint regarding discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment, is made should refer to the relevant staff or student grievance resolution procedure. 

If the alleged behaviour involves actual or threatened physical assault, it may be referred by the Chief Operating Officer or Senior Executive responsible for academic employee relations, or by the Academic Registrar or nominee, to the police to be handled under the Queensland Criminal Code.

5. Confidentiality

The University expects that all parties involved will treat all complaints confidentially and will make every attempt to resolve the problem at the lowest possible level. 

If the matter is deemed to be of a particularly serious nature there will be limits to the confidentiality:

  • a staff member may need to consult a more senior officer or seek advice from an appropriate source, for example, Human Resources - Employee Relations, the Equity Office; and
  • in the activation of investigation and misconduct procedures, as specified in appropriate agreements and policies (for example, Enterprise Agreement and Procedures for Dealing With Student Discipline and Misconduct matters, or as prescribed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and accompanying guidelines) such procedures will, of necessity, involve disclosure of details to relevant parties on a 'need to know' basis.

6. Other Avenues for Resolution

The procedures that are utilised in conjunction with the Discrimination and Harassment Policy do not pre-empt, limit or delay the parties' rights to pursue other avenues for resolution of grievances where applicable, such as direct an application to the Fair Work Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission.

If the grievance arises from a workplace harassment issue, a complaint may be made under the Work Health and Safety Act to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Where alternative avenues external to the University are followed, the student or staff member will no longer have access to these University grievance procedures.

Referral to the Work Injury Management Team is not a referral to an external body for the purposes of these procedures.

Professor Alan Rix
Professor Alan Rix