Related topics

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, all health and safety 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.

Indirect bullying is behaviour that often involves treatment that excludes or removes benefits from a person or group of people.

A wide range of injuries and illnesses can result from bullying, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicide.


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 is treating a person less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national origin, sex, 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.

Indirect discrimination is imposing a requirement, condition or practice on someone that a person with a certain attribute does not or cannot comply with.


Top stories for Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination


S-xual harassment policy didn’t protect employer from $30K claim

Sexual harassment in the workplace

As an employer, you will be liable for any acts of sexual harassment committed by your employees in the course of their employment, unless you can show you took reasonable steps to prevent the conduct. However, these steps are not […]

By Charles Power on November 25th, 2019

Your questions answered: How do we approach a young employee with an apparent eating disorder?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q We have a 17-year-old staff member we are worried about. We have been told that she eats by herself at the local food court and after eating she goes to a nearby toilet to vomit. We are planning to […]

By Portner Press on November 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we ask all job candidates to undertake a medical examination?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q We ask all of our job candidates to attend pre-employment medical exams – from the mail room to senior lawyers. However, a lawyer I recently spoke to said I should not be conducting these exams, even though the testing […]

By Portner Press on October 25th, 2019

Lack of IR knowledge no excuse for ‘disgraceful’ dismissal: FWC

Discrimination in the workplace

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has referred an unfair dismissal case to other “relevant agencies” to investigate possible breaches of anti-discrimination laws, after it found the sacking was likely to be racially motivated. Jianbin ‘Eddie’ Wang, the current owner of […]

By Portner Press on October 14th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we terminate an employee who is not a ‘cultural fit’?

Discrimination in the workplace

Q Can you terminate an employee due to non-cultural team fit? What would the reasons be noted in the termination letter? The termination would be three months into the six month probation period. A It depends what is meant by […]

By Portner Press on September 23rd, 2019

Employee sacked for video depicting managers as Nazis

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

A BP refinery employee who was dismissed for producing a video that depicted senior management as Nazis has lost his unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The operations technician shared the video with other employees on a […]

By Portner Press on September 18th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we demote a bully?

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

Q We have a team leader who has had a bullying complaint substantiated against them. We do not believe this person should continue to be in charge of staff and we wish to demote them. Is there an ability to […]

By Portner Press on September 16th, 2019

PTSD acceptable reason for late bullying claim, court rules

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

  The District Court of New South Wales has accepted a late psychological damage claim from a bullied employee, because it found her mental health condition had contributed to the delay. NSW District Court Judge Leonard Levy allowed the former […]

By Portner Press on September 4th, 2019

Tram driver denied procedural fairness, FWC rules

Bullying, Harassment & Discrimination

  When a person or body is appointed to determine allegations of employee misconduct, there is generally an obligation to afford the employee being investigated natural justice or procedural fairness. In a recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision, Australian Rail, […]

By Charles Power on August 12th, 2019

14 steps to avoid discriminating when recruiting

Discrimination in the workplace

When advertising for a job vacancy, most employers will want to find the best candidate and fit for the organisation. And often they will see the recruitment process as a way to filter out potentially unsuitable employees at the outset. […]

By Portner Press on July 17th, 2019