Reprisal for Public Interest Disclosure
The Queensland Ombudsman is the oversight agency for the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 which provides protections from reprisal for disclosing information in the public interest in Queensland. Making a public interest disclosure is sometimes referred to as 'whistleblowing'.
People who make a public interest disclosure (whistleblowers) and suffer a detriment because of making the disclosure (reprisal) have the option to make a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) if the reprisal happened after 1 January 2011.
The elements of a possible reprisal are:
- the person has made, or intends to make, a public interest disclosure (PID), or the person is, has been, or intends to be, involved in a proceeding under the Public Interest Disclosure Act against any person; and
- because of this, the person suffers detriment.
If a complaint about a reprisal is accepted into the ADCQ 's complaint handling process, there is no further right to take court action for the same reprisal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act , regardless of the outcome of the complaint.
If the person subjected to the reprisal has started proceedings in a court seeking damages for the reprisal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act , the person cannot subsequently make a complaint to the ADCQ about the same reprisal.
Complaint process at the ADCQ
The ADCQ 's role is to try to resolve complaints through the conciliation process. This process is managed by an ADCQ conciliator who is not an advocate for either party. The role of the conciliator is to make sure that each party has an opportunity to present their point of view and to keep the discussion focused on the issues raised under the law. The ADCQ does not decide whether the conduct the subject of the reprisal complaint was
reasonable management action .
- More information about the ADCQ's complaint handling process including a flow chart.
Case scenarios of reprisals
- A clerical worker in a regional council office became aware that a senior manager in the civil works section is directing that council materials and equipment be delivered to his private residence for use in a new driveway he is making. When the worker makes a public interest disclosure the senior manager makes a threatening phone call saying he will finish the worker's career and that he'll be sorry he ever took him on.
- The administrative assistant at a school is aware that the principal is in an inappropriate relationship with a student. When she makes a public interest disclosure, her hours are cut and it is suggested that the position is to be made redundant.
- An agency worker made a public interest disclosure alleging that a support worker had physically assaulted a client and intimidated other clients with threats of violence. After making the public interest disclosure the worker was reprimanded, told that they were not suited to the work and advised to look elsewhere for a job.