Everyone should be able to feel safe and be treated with dignity in their work. As an employee, you are protected from discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace by Victorian and federal laws. Employers have a legal responsibility to make sure that everyone who works for them is treated fairly and with respect.
How does the law protect me?
Under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, employers have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.
While a person who discriminates against or sexually harasses someone else is primarily responsible for their own behaviour, in some cases an employer could also be held responsible for the actions of their staff or agents.
See our Employee and workplace rights hub for more information about rights and responsibilities in employment.
The law protects you from discrimination
At work, it is against the law for someone to bully you or treat you unfairly because of a personal characteristic that is protected by law, such as your:
- sexual orientation.
Find out more about discrimination.
The law protects you from sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is also against the law, whether it is committed by:
- your employer
- other staff members
- clients or customers.
Find out more about sexual harassment.
It is also against the law to victimise a person, which means treat them badly or unfairly, because they have made a complaint about discrimination, sexual harassment or vilification, or have helped someone else to make a complaint.
You can make a complaint
Get help from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:
If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you.
Find out how the Commission helps people resolve complaints.
We can also give you information about your rights.
What we can’t help with
The Commission can’t help you with information about specific wage and leave entitlements. See our referrals page for a list of organisations that may be able to help you with those sorts of questions.
What kind of employees are protected by the law?
The law protects all types of employees at any stage of their employment. It does not matter if you are a casual employee who is being unfairly sacked or a potential job candidate applying for a full-time position. Discrimination at any stage is against the law.
Volunteers and unpaid workers have the same protection from sexual harassment as any other worker.
Volunteers may also be protected from discrimination and victimisation in certain circumstances.
Find out more about how the law protects volunteers.
What is the positive duty?
Victoria is unique in having a positive duty, which creates an opportunity to prevent unlawful behaviour. It helps organisations put a healthy workplace culture in place, just as occupational health and safety laws require employers to take appropriate steps to ensure injuries don’t occur.
Organisations must also put measures in place to ensure that complaints are responded to swiftly and appropriately when they do arise.
The positive duty applies to employers of all sizes, regardless of whether they are a major company or a small cafe, and covers all types of workers:
- full-time, part-time and casual employees
- agents and contract workers
- trainees and apprentices.
It applies to all stages of employment, including:
What are workplace reasonable adjustments?
Under the Equal Opportunity Act, employers must make reasonable adjustments for someone with a disability. Workplace reasonable adjustments are changes to the work environment that allow people with disability to work safely and productively.
Adjustments can vary from minor changes to work hours or the performance requirements of the job, or larger changes that require specific equipment or some structural change to the workplace.
More information about employee and workplace rights
See our Employee and workplace rights hub for more information about rights at work.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
There are some exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act that mean it’s not against the law to discriminate in particular circumstances. For example, discrimination is not against the law if there is a real risk to someone’s health, safety or property.
Find out more about exceptions.
My human rights under the Charter
Every Victorian has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.
Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.
The Victorian Government, local councils and other public authorities must always consider these rights when they create laws, develop policies and deliver their services.
Find out more about your human rights under the Charter and what to do if you think they have been breached.