People should be able to stand up for their rights, or help others do so, without being treated badly in return. But sometimes people don’t speak out because they worry about retaliation. This could mean losing their job, being bullied or being refused service. That’s why Victoria’s laws protect people from victimisation.
What is victimisation?
When we talk about a person being victimised, it means they’re being treated badly or unfairly because they have made a complaint about discrimination, sexual harassment or racial and religious vilification, or they’ve helped someone else to make a complaint.
The legal definition of victimisation is when someone “subjects or threatens to subject the other person to any detriment”.
How does the law protect me?
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 makes it against the law victimise someone because they have:
- asserted their rights under equal opportunity law
- made a complaint
- helped someone else make a complaint
- refused to do something because it would be discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.
Victimisation is also against the law under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.
The Commission can help resolve complaints of victimisation.
Victimisation in the workplace
An employee who believes they have been discriminated against or sexually harassed has the right to make a complaint. They can use their employer’s own complaints procedure or go through an external organisation like the Commission.
While a person is responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, employers can also be held responsible.
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:
- advertising jobs and recruitment
- returning to work after injury, illness or pregnancy
- dismissal and retrenchment.
Examples of victimisation in the workplace
- an employer giving a warning to someone for being a witness to a complaint of race discrimination made by a work colleague.
- being denied a promotion or being moved to a position with lower responsibility after helping a colleague make a discrimination complaint
- dismissal from employment or being refused further contract work after making a complaint of sexual harassment.
What can I do if I’m victimised?
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.
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.