Equal Employment Opportunity

A recent study found that diverse teams deliver more innovative and effective results than homogenous teams. Ensure your organisation is reaping the benefits of diversity by utilising the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Equal Opportunity consultants for assistance with:

  • Diversity management
  • Review/ design policies and processes
  • Workplace culture audits
  • Investigations
  • Mediations

Sexual harassment, bullying and grievances

The importance of an employer implementing clear and transparent Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies in the workplace, and the correct handling of incidents contravening these policies has been highlighted by a number of recent high-profile cases. In these cases, although the employer had appropriate EEO policies, they were held liable after it was found that they had not correctly handled EEO grievance procedures, or that the policy was insufficient.

From 1 January 2014, the Fair Work Commission has had the power to hear applications from employees in respect of bullying. This represents a further avenue whereby employers may need to defend their actions, or satisfy the commission that they are able to successfully resolve and manage a bullying issue.

During the course of claims under the various pieces of  applicable legislation, many employers have been forced to defend or demonstrate preventative measures they had in place during the course of lengthy and costly sexual harassment and workplace discrimination litigation. Not only is there the potential cost to an employer of substantiated claims arising from incorrect harassment, discrimination and bullying handling procedures but also in terms of the effects they can have on a workplace in terms of lost productivity, low morale, absenteeism and staff turnover. The Victorian Chamber’s skilled EEO consultants can help protect your business by:

  • Conducting training for managers and team leaders in developing and implementing EEO policy
  • Developing strategies for handling harassment, discrimination, bullying and equal opportunity complaints.
  • Conducting independent investigations into allegations of sexual harassment, harassment, bullying and discrimination
  • Holding workshops for employees addressing their obligations and responsibilities
  • Assisting employers in responding  to claims.

Positive duty and you

In addition to the increased coverage under the Fair Work Act, from 1st August 2011, Victorian Equal Opportunity legislation changed to place a positive obligation on employers to ensure they provide an Equal Opportunity workplace. Changes that may affect business include:

  • Unprecedented obligations on employers to proactively eliminate discrimination, bullying, victimisation and sexual harassment.
  • Greater requirements for businesses to accommodate impaired employees.
  • A new definition of discrimination in the workplace making it much easier for an individual to support their case of discrimination.
  • Extended powers of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and revisions to the dispute resolution process.
  • Developing strategies for dealing with areas of non-compliance
  • Taking proactive steps to comply with your positive duty to ensure equal opportunity
  • Making a smooth transition to the new legislation. 
  • Explaining the dispute resolution procedure and the new powers of the commission

 

Resources and learning

Success story

Gavin has made a complaint alleging that he has been bullied by his supervisor, Jeanette. Jeanette commenced work at the company several months earlier and Gavin feels that she has been keeping him under constant surveillance and is asking him to undertake tasks with impossible deadlines. Gavin has visited his doctor who has certified him as stressed and placed him on sick leave. He has also lodged a WorkCover claim against the employer.

The company's CEO called in the Victorian Chamber to conduct a formal investigation. The Victorian Chamber's investigation found that Gavin's previous manager had never addressed his performance. The written allegations of bullying were presented to Jeanette who in turn presented a number of counter allegations in her defence. The Victorian Chamber interviewed colleagues and reviewed paperwork and policies.

The Victorian Chamber submitted a report to the CEO which found that Gavin's behaviour to Jeanette had been inappropriate. The Victorian Chamber provided advice on Gavin's Workcover claim which did not succeed as it was a result of appropriate performance management. The Victorian Chamber reviewed all EO policies and updated them, while also conducting training to ensure all employees were aware of the organisation's EO policies.

Jeanette was given coaching by the CEO in managing employees as the investigation had also revealed she was insecure about managing other employees.