Discrimination is often confused with bullying and harassment. Under the Fair Work Act, discrimination only happens when there is ‘adverse action’ because of a person’s characteristics such as their race, religion or sex (see Discrimination for the full list of characteristics).
If the adverse action isn’t based on one or more of these categories, it isn’t discrimination but it could be bullying or harassment.
What if I’m being bullied or harassed?
We can investigate bullying and harassment issues in the workplace if it’s happening because of a person’s characteristics, such as their religion, sex or a physical or mental disability (see Discrimination for the full list of characteristics).
If you’re being bullied or harassed at work for any other reason, or for no reason, you can get advice and help from your local occupational health and safety (OHS) body.
Mary is pregnant. She works in an office where most of her co-workers participate in regular, pooled lottery tickets. Mary doesn’t like gambling so she refuses to join in. Because of this, many of her co-workers make fun of her and her boss deliberately excludes her from some office discussions.
This is unlikely to be unlawful discrimination. Even though Mary is experiencing adverse action, it isn’t because she is pregnant. She is being treated badly because she has no interest in the lottery. Being treated differently because you do not like gambling is not unlawful discrimination.
Mary’s co-workers’ and boss’s behaviour might be harassment or bullying. She should speak to her local OHS body about this.
If Mary is being treated badly because she is pregnant, it could be unlawful discrimination and she could seek help from us.
What if my employer is bullying or harassing me because I complained?
Seeking help about bullying or harassment is a workplace right. You shouldn’t face adverse action from your employer because you have complained to an OHS body.
We may be able to help if you are being disadvantaged because you have complained about bullying and harassment at work. For more information on workplace rights, visit our Coercion and workplace rights page.