What are the responsibilities of employers?
Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that they do not discriminate against job applicants, employees and independent contractors because of their disability or health condition.
Employers may also be legally responsible for discrimination by their employees if they do not take reasonable steps to ensure that their workplace is free from discrimination or to stop any discrimination that is occurring. This legal responsibility is known as ‘vicarious liability’.
The types of reasonable steps that employers should take in order to minimise the risk of discrimination in the workplace include:
- developing and promoting anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies
- conducting regular in-house training on anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies
- appointing equal opportunity and harassment officers
- establishing accessible and effective complaints handling and investigative procedures
- monitoring the workplace and regularly reviewing anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies and training
- ensuring that any complaints are dealt with properly
- providing employees who have been discriminated against with support, including access to counselling or assistance programs
- providing employees who engage in discriminatory behaviour with information and training to ensure that the discrimination does not recur.
What are the responsibilities of other people in the workplace?
Federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it clear that the person responsible for the disability discrimination is personally liable for their behaviour.
Therefore, everybody in the workplace, including employees and independent contractors, have a legal responsibility to ensure that they do not discriminate against or harass any other employees, contractors, customers or clients because of their disability or health condition.
Under the Fair Work Act, a person ‘involved in’ unlawful adverse action is liable along with the employer. A person will be ‘involved in’ a contravention of the Fair Work Actif the person:-
(a) has aided, abetted, counselled or procured the contravention; or
(b) has induced the contravention, whether by threats or promises or otherwise; or
(c) has been in any way, by act or omission, directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned in or party to the contravention; or
(d) has conspired with others to effect the contravention.
Next Section: How can I make a complaint in my workplace?