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Bullying is harmful behaviour that is directed towards a person or group of people. It is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome. Bullying can cause either physical or psychological harm. Bullying within the workplace creates a risk to the health and safety of your workers. While no specific mention is made of bullying in health and safety legislation, the same legislation imposes a general duty on you to protect the health, safety and welfare of your workers. Workplace bullying isn’t just confined to the physical workspace. Bullying can also occur online, particularly through email or social media, and at any time of the day or night. There are two types of bullying that can occur in the workplace - direct and indirect bullying. Direct bullying is behaviour that is overt and often involves direct steps or conduct to belittle or demean a person or a group of people. Examples include:
  • abusive, insulting or offensive language;
  • spreading misinformation or malicious rumours;
  • behaviour or language that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades, including criticism delivered with yelling or screaming;
  • displaying offensive material, e.g. pornography;
  • making inappropriate comments about a person’s appearance, lifestyle or family;
  • teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of pranks or practical jokes;
  • interfering with a person’s property or work equipment, e.g. hiding or defacing someone’s property; and
  • harmful or offensive initiation processes.
Indirect bullying is behaviour that often involves treatment that excludes or removes benefits from a person or group of people, including:
  • deliberately or maliciously overloading a person with work or not providing enough work;
  • unreasonably setting timelines that are difficult to achieve or constantly changing deadlines;
  • setting tasks that are unreasonably below or beyond a person’s skill level;
  • deliberately excluding, isolating or marginalising a person from normal work activities, e.g. excluding a worker from meetings or functions that everyone else attends;
  • withholding information that is vital for effective work performance;
  • deliberately denying access to information, consultation or resources;
  • deliberately changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to inconvenience a particular worker or workers; and
  • unfair treatment in relation to accessing workplace entitlements, e.g. leave or training.
A wide range of injuries and illnesses can result from bullying, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicide. Harassment Workplace harassment is prohibited by anti-discrimination legislation in all states and territories. A common form of harassment is sexual harassment, which occurs when a person is subjected to any unwanted or uninvited sexual behaviour that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating. Sexual harassment can include the following types of behaviour:
  • unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature;
  • unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favours;
  • unwelcome remarks or statements with sexual connotations;
  • any unwelcome gesture, action or comment of a sexual nature;
  • staring or leering at someone in a sexual manner;
  • unwanted sexual or physical contact, e.g. kissing, inappropriate touching or hugging; intrusive questions about someone’s sexual activity; and
  • repeated invitations of a sexual nature when similar invitations have previously been refused by that person.
Discrimination Discrimination is treating a person less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national origin, gender, disability, religion, or some other attribute or characteristic as specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation. There are two types of discrimination – direct and indirect. Direct discrimination is treating a person with a prescribed attribute differently than a person without that attribute. You will directly discriminate against an employee if the way you treat them is because of an attribute they have, or a characteristic that people with that attribute generally have (even if that is not the only reason for the treatment). If you treat an employee with an attribute less favourably than you treat or would treat another employee without that attribute in the same circumstances, that’s direct discrimination. Indirect discrimination is imposing a requirement, condition or practice on someone that a person with a certain attribute does not or cannot comply with. You will indirectly discriminate against an employee on the grounds of an attribute they have if you impose, or intend to impose, a workplace practice or requirement that is unreasonable in the circumstances and is likely to disadvantage people with the same attribute as the employee.

Top stories for Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination


Judge accepts workplace bullying claim 3 years after limitation period

Bullying in the Workplace

  A worker who lodged a bullying claim more than three years after the limitation period has been granted an extension of time to have her case heard. The worker claimed that during her employment at Holyoake Industries Pty Ltd […]

By Portner Press on October 17th, 2019

Worker accused of sexual harassment wins compensation for psychiatric injury

Workplace Harassment

Good employers know they should never ignore a sexual harassment complaint. But, on the other side of the coin, can employers actually be too proactive in dealing with a complaint? Shoalhaven City Council in New South Wales discovered that reacting […]

By Portner Press on October 3rd, 2019

Your questions answered: Can pre-employment medicals be discriminatory?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q My sales and distribution business operates within the metals industry. We are considering pre-employment medicals for new warehouse/delivery driver employees. Would you please advise what legal requirements, if any, we need to consider. Is it discrimination to request a […]

By Portner Press on September 27th, 2019

Discrimination against pregnant worker costs employer $40K

Discrimination in the workplace

An employer that refused to redeploy or provide unpaid leave to a pregnant worker has been ordered to pay her nearly $40,000 compensation in an adverse action claim. In Leutton v Sheralee Hotels Pty Ltd Trading As Imperial Tavern & […]

By Portner Press on September 24th, 2019

Employer must pay bullying workers FWC rules

Bullying in the Workplace

Fair Work Commission (FWC) Commissioner Jennifer Hunt has ordered an employer to compensate two casual workers for not providing them with work, even though they engaged in behaviour that was tantamount to serious misconduct. In Mrs Carmen-May Olver: Mrs Linda […]

By Portner Press on September 19th, 2019

Security company and its director fined $116k for bullying

Bullying in the Workplace

Melbourne security company Monjon (Australia) Pty Ltd and its director John Bernard Moncrieff have been fined a total of $116,250 for bullying offences. The Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court heard that WorkSafe Victoria was called to the company’s office after an incident […]

By Portner Press on September 17th, 2019

Second supervisor fined for setting apprentice on fire

Bullying in the Workplace

“It is not enough for a business to just have a ‘no bullying’ policy,” SafeWork SA Executive Director Martyn Campbell has warned employers. His comment comes in the wake a second bully’s conviction for a Category 1 breach under the […]

By Portner Press on September 10th, 2019

Your questions answered: What can we do if workers don’t disclose pre-existing medical conditions?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q We recently hired an employee who, on the pre-employment medical condition questionnaire, indicated they had no relevant pre-existing medical conditions. Subsequent events indicate that there are, in relation to the capacity of the person to perform the inherent requirements […]

By Portner Press on September 10th, 2019

ICAC report reveals ‘shocking’ behaviour in SA public sector

Bullying in the Workplace

South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Bruce Lander QC, has recently published a second report from the ICAC Public Integrity Survey that was conducted last year. The qualitative report In Their Own Words reveals “sobering and in many instances shocking” […]

By Portner Press on September 6th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we train staff to avoid making faux pas?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q Do you have any information, fact sheets or training resources that can be used to inform staff about appropriateness of conversations with customers in the workplace, so to ensure not to offend? These would be around the areas of […]

By Portner Press on September 3rd, 2019