Workplace Bullying & Discrimination Lawyers

Bullying and discrimination claims can be very damaging to your business. Defending such claims requires a thorough understanding of the law and a careful and considered approach to the dispute resolution process. To increase your chance of successfully defending a claim, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible after you receive a complaint. An experienced employment lawyer in the Gold Coast can help you to take appropriate steps to investigate the matter, gather evidence, and respond to the claim in a timely and professional manner.

What is Bullying and Discrimination?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) defines workplace bullying as when an individual (or group) repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. 

Discrimination is when an employer, co-worker or third party treats an employee unfavourably because of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

Preventing Claims

Although preventing bullying and harassment is a complex endeavour, it can be simplified down to two main obligations. As an employer, you must: 

  1. take all reasonable steps to prevent workplace bullying and discrimination from occurring; and
  2. support employees who make a complaint about workplace bullying or discrimination and ensure they are not victimised or retaliated against for making a complaint.

As an employer, you can work towards meeting these obligations by having robust internal policies and procedures that communicate clearly that bullying and discrimination will not be tolerated. You should then ensure that you follow these policies and procedures. You can also reduce the risk of claims by providing all your employees with regular training to identify behaviour that breaches the Fair Work Act 2009

Defending a Claim

Employees who believe that they have experienced workplace bullying or discrimination may seek assistance from the Fair Work Commission. If you receive a complaint about bullying or discrimination within your workplace, you should take the claim seriously and promptly conduct an internal investigation. It is important that your investigation is conducted fairly and impartially, and that all relevant evidence is considered. It is often beneficial to have an outside party with relevant expertise lead the investigation.

The outcome of this investigation will inform how you respond to the complaint. If you find evidence that the employee did experience bullying or discrimination, it is important to take steps to ensure that the incidents cannot recur in future and negotiate with the employee to redress any damage they have experienced. This can prevent a claim from going further. 

If your claim is not resolved informally at mediation or conciliation, then you may be required to attend a formal hearing. You should be prepared to cross-examine your employee and their witnesses and to answer questions from the tribunal or the court. If the Commission finds that you failed to take appropriate action to prevent or address workplace bullying or discrimination, you may face penalties and fines.

We have been assisting employers and managers across all aspects of employment and industrial relations law for over 23 years. We are trusted advisors and can provide strong representation to respond to claims made by current or former employees regarding a range of workplace issues including bullying and discrimination.

For expert employment law advice contact [email protected] or call 1300 421 599.