The Advocate - Hepburn

Pride month puts spotlight on importance of workplace protections in 2022

Pride month puts spotlight on importance of workplace protections in 2022

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With Pride Month 2022 - a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world - well and truly in force, a spotlight has been shone on the importance of workplace protections more now than ever.

Just as the 1969 Stonewall Riots in America paved a way for the emergence of gay rights, more and more businesses and companies are now embracing a much needed change in the acceptance and enforcement of not just LGBTQ+ rights, but also the rights of any and every other group once marginalised or discriminated both now and in the past.

In honour of Pride Month, we'll dive into everything you need to know about workplace protections against discrimination, harassment and bullying in 2022. Simply scroll down and read on to find out more.

What is unlawful workplace discrimination?

By Australian federal law, all employers have a responsibility to ensure employees and job candidates are treated fairly and without bias or discrimination. Discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently (less favourably) due to their background or certain personal characteristics. These characteristics may pertain to their gender, sexuality, race, religion, political affiliation, age or disability.

Both the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) protects employees from discrimination in employment based on any of the above factors. If you or someone you know feel like you may have been or still are being discriminated against due to your background or personal characteristics, it is vital that you seek legal advice for employers as soon as possible.

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment can take many forms and some of the most common occurrences are made up of physical, verbal, sexual and emotional harassment in the workplace. This can occur between employer and employee or even within a group of colleagues. Workplace harassment is also often referred to as workplace bullying, and examples of harassment and bullying include (but are not limited to):

  • Teasing or playing practical jokes
  • Excluding someone from events
  • Intimidation
  • Giving employees or colleagues impossible tasks
  • Undermining work performance
  • Yelling, screaming or offensive language
  • Pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
  • Behaving aggressively towards others
  • Making unwanted sexual advances

Note: Unlike bullying, sexual harassment needn't be continuous or repeated behaviour - it can be a one-off event. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 prohibits harassment in the workplace by employers and co-workers.

For business owners, understanding the various facets of workplace harassment is vital in ensuring a harmonious work environment that is conducive to not just business activity but also the mental health and wellbeing of everyone present. By creating a workplace harassment policy, employers are able to take the necessary steps to create a safe working environment for employees of different backgrounds and personal characteristics.

Why workplace protections are important In 2022

Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people and many other minorities in Australia still experience discrimination, harassment and hostility in many parts of everyday life, whether this be at school, work, public or in accessing health and other vital services in 2022. Although we have come a long way, there is still much to be said and done about how minorities are treated in the workplace and in the world as a whole.

Workplace protection policies provide employees with the clarity of what is expected of them in all aspects of their employment and most importantly, play a vital role in ensuring the mental and physical wellbeing of everyone present in the workplace. Not only should employers be familiar with these laws, but so should their employees.

To quote the Australian Human Rights Commission:

"Employers should also be proactive in addressing hostile behaviour that may be embedded in the workplace culture. Examples of a potentially hostile working environment are where racially or sexually crude conversations, innuendo or offensive jokes are part of the accepted culture. An employee can complain about such conduct as harassment even if the conduct in question was not specifically targeted at him or her".

What can I do if I think I have been discriminated against?

If you think you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to sexual orientation, gender, or any of the aformentioned reasons, it is important that you request assistance from the the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman. You can do this by submitting an online enquiry or calling them at 131394. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also be able to lodge an application with the FWC.

Alternatively, there are a number of anti-discrimination laws and you may prefer to raise your concerns with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

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In Australia, all employers are required to prevent discrimination, harassment or bullying from occurring in the workplace. By working together to create a more positive environment with the help of workplace protections, we can slowly make the shift towards a more diverse and accepting culture both in the workplace and in our general daily lives.

If you are struggling with your mental health or require more support as a LGBTQ+ individual, please head on over to Beyond Blue.