Bullying and harassment can be discrimination when it happens because of someone's disability, race, sexual orientation, age, physical features or any other protected attribute under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. Bullying and harassment can be verbal, physical or in writing, and includes behaviour that intimidates, degrades or humiliates another person. This can be a form of unfavourable treatment covered by the law.
WorkSafe Victoria has more information on bullying at work.
If someone is being bullied because of a personal characteristic protected by equal opportunity law, it is a form of discrimination.
In most cases, bullying behaviour is persistent and happens over a period of time. However under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, this behaviour does not have to be repeated to be discrimination – it may be a one-off event.
Examples of bullying
Bullying can occur wherever people work together and in a range of different workplace relationships. It can be verbal or in writing, including online.
Bullying can happen:
- by managers towards workers
- among co-workers
- by workers towards managers.
Bullying can take many forms, such as:
- publicly humiliating someone
- verbal abuse
- spreading malicious rumours or gossip.
What isn't bullying?
Reasonable management actions carried out in a fair way are not bullying. For example:
- allocating work and setting performance goals, standards and deadlines
- informing and warning a worker about unsatisfactory work performance
- informing and warning a worker about inappropriate behaviour
- undertaking performance management processes and providing constructive feedback.
Employers should respond to instances of workplace bullying in a way that is appropriate to the seriousness of what has occurred. Serious instances of bullying, including threats to harm a person or damage to property, can be criminal matters and should be referred to the police.
Make a complaint to the Commission
If you think you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed, or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns. Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.
To make a complaint:
- contact us by phone, in person or email. We also have a free interpreter service
- submit your complaint online or download our complaint form (DOC, 230KB).
Find out more about making a complaint.