What rights do I have if someone harrasses me at work?
I live in Tasmania and work in a factory.
I have been subjected to months of abuse from my supervisor and feel that if I make a complaint about him I will lose my job.
However, I now suffer from stress and anxiety and dread going to work. Is there anything I can do?
Bullying usually involves the persistent bad treatment of a person by one or more other people.
Bullying doesn’t always involve physical abuse such as punching or kicking. Often bullying involves other nasty behaviour such as verbal abuse, name-calling, nit-picking, threats, sarcasm, exclusion or shunning, or sabotage of a person’s work.
If you have been subjected to bullying, you may be covered by discrimination laws under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) if it is related to one or more of the personal characteristics (‘attributes’) listed in the Act.
Section 17(1) of the Act says a person must not offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule another person on the basis of:
lawful sexual conduct
where a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would anticipate the other person would be offended, humiliated, intimidated, insulted or ridiculed. This can be a form of bullying; it is against the law.
Even if the harassment/bullying does not relate to attributes covered by discrimination law, it is still a serious problem and may be a breach of
- occupational health and safety laws,
- workers rehabilitation and compensation laws, or
- criminal laws relating to assault, threatening behaviour, etc.
Organisations must provide a safe environment for their employees and for people coming into their workplace.
Section 104 of the Anti-Discrimination Act says organisations must take reasonable steps to ensure no member, officer, employee or agent engages in discrimination or prohibited conduct. Further, it says an organisation that does not comply with this requirement is liable for any breach of the Act committed by any of its members, officers, employees or agents.
So, take these steps:
1. Find out if your organisation:
- has a current discrimination and/or harassment prevention policy that clearly says what bullying is and that it is not okay;
- has internal grievance procedures that can be used to deal with bullying;
- has a Contact Officer you can talk to about possible bullying and to get support and information
Seek legal advice from a law firm experienced in Employment Law