Discrimination in the workplace is not uncommon in society today. Many individuals experience some form of discrimination at their jobs. Discrimination can come in many forms. Older workers may experience age discrimination in the workplace by having their hours cut or being the first ones to lose their jobs during difficult economic times. Women working in a predominantly male- dominated career field may experience gender discrimination in the workplace by being passed over for a promotion or raise.
Employment discrimination can happen at any time in any line of business. Despite laws to protect workers against unfair employment practices, discrimination in the workplace in Australia continues to be a problem.
What is Discrimination in the Workplace?
Job discrimination occurs when employers treat employees unfavorably simply because of their race, gender, religion, age, skin color or ethnic background. In Australia, all facets of employment discrimination are illegal. Some typical examples of possible discrimination could be:
- Being excluded from job recruitment due to your race, gender, religion, etc.
- Being overlooked for a raise, promotion, benefits or compensation
- Receiving a different salary than a co-worker for performing the same job, despite having the same qualifications
- Not being allowed to use company facilities
- Getting unfair treatment when applying for disability or maternity leave and retirement options
Although discrimination in the workplace is illegal, many employers continue to treat certain employees unfairly due to their religion, nationality, gender, age, etc. It’s not uncommon for a company that’s experiencing financial difficulties to discriminate against older employees when it comes to making decisions about layoffs or early retirement. Companies with predominantly male executives may subtly bypass female candidates who are fully qualified for the job in order to maintain their status quo. Many companies think nothing of disregarding job applications from those who are disabled, reasoning that their disability will be a detriment to their job performance.
Bullying and Harassment
Discriminatory acts can also come in the form of bullying or harassment, making it difficult for employees to live up to their full potential. In addition to being passed up for raises or promotions, gender discrimination in the workplace can be manifested in sexual harassment.
Many female workers have experienced the displeasure of sexual harassment by male colleagues or supervisors at the workplace. Such harassment can make women employees feel angry and uncomfortable due to being taken advantage of. Continued harassment could cause women to feel uncertainty about their future in that job.
Other forms of harassment include teasing or making offhanded comments about a person’s race, age, disability, etc. Although all forms of harassment are irritating to the victim, some may be more serious than others. Frequent harassment may cause contention in the workplace, creating a hostile work environment for everyone.
Harassment by a supervisor or manager can humiliate or intimidate employees, causing them to feel inferior and incapable of performing their job. Many a good employee has been lost from a company due to being picked on once too often. Overbearing bosses can make their employees feel unappreciated and unwanted. As a result, many take their talents elsewhere where they are respected and valued.
Federal laws in Australia make it illegal for employers to use any kind of discriminatory behavior against their employees. Business owners have a responsibility to protect their employees by providing them with a work environment free of harassment and discriminatory behavior. By keeping a pulse on what’s happening on the ground level of their company, business owners can better protect their workers against misconduct. A company’s employees are its greatest asset. Business owners would do well to ensure their assets are healthy and happy on the job.
Bullying is yet another form of harassment. It can be manifested in:
- Destructive criticism
- Public insults
- Undermining employees’ work efforts
- Setting unrealistic work goals or targets
- Mocking employees’ input or opinions
Bullying behavior may come from one person in the office or from a group of employees who gang up on their victim(s). The ill effects of bullying can be easily noticed in the victim’s work performance. More often than not, victims will become discouraged and lose interest in their work. Many decide to quit altogether, forcing a company to hire and train someone new.
Some supervisors use bullying tactics to instill fear in their workers so they will work harder. However, bullying tactics rarely produce positive results. On the contrary, bullying only results in poor work performance and low morale, which will hinder a company from moving forward.
How Can Employers Combat Discrimination?
Anti discrimination legislation clearly states that employers cannot base employment decisions on such factors as race, age, gender, disability, etc. It’s not legal for employers to withhold employment from individuals who fall into the above category simply because employers think they may not be able to perform their job. Everyone deserves a chance to prove his or her abilities and skills. Those who are qualified for a certain position should be given the opportunity to obtain employment regardless of their age, gender, nationality, race, etc.
In Australia, there are numerous federal and state laws that deal with anti discrimination in the workplace. The most prominent are:
- Racial Discrimination Act
- Sex Discrimination Act
- Age Discrimination Act
- Disability Discrimination Act
- And the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act
In early 2014, new anti-bullying legislation was enacted to help curtail bullying in the work force. Bullying victims can report misconduct to the Fair Work Commission who will issue an order to have the bullying stopped.
Employers can also participate against bullying acts by putting such anti-bullying measures into effect as:
- Establishing a system where staff can report bullying incidents
- Offering anti-bullying training to supervisors and staff
- Compiling a manual to explain acceptable/unacceptable behavior on the job so everyone has a clear understanding of what is considered bullying behavior
- Setting up consequences for bullying behavior and following through with those consequences to punish the guilty party
By ensuring their company is abiding by anti-bullying and anti discrimination legislation in the workplace, employers can do their part to curtail this behavior. Business owners stand much to gain from creating a stimulating and inspiring work environment that’s free of harassment and discriminatory behavior. By eliminating discrimination, harassment and bullying, employers can help create a happier, more productive work environment.
Application of Anti discrimination Legislation in the Workplace
Anti discrimination laws apply to all employees in a company, regardless of place of employment, position, employment status (full time, part time or temporary), length of time in employment, etc. All workers in Australia have the right to be protected against discriminatory conduct.
Workers who feel they are being discriminated against or harassed by a colleague should report the misconduct to their supervisor. In the event supervisors are the guilty parties, employees can appeal to the MD or CEO of the company. If all else fails, employees can seek legal assistance from a competent attorney to counsel on how to proceed. When it comes to discrimination in the workplace in Australia, employees should be aware that the law is on their side and by taking action against this problem, they can help put an end to discriminatory acts once and for all.