Employer rights and responsibilities
All employers have the right to appoint and dismiss workers in accordance with proper procedures and to expect reasonable performance from their employees. However employers do not have the right to:
- discriminate against existing or potential employees; or
- allow sexual harassment;
- victimisation; or
- vilification to occur in the workplace.
The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 establishes a legal responsibility on employers to provide workplaces free from discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and vilification.
Employers must not allow workers to be discriminated against, sexually harassed or subjected to vilification by other workers, clients or management. If they do, they can be held legally liable.
If an employee or agent of an organisation breaches the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 in the course of their work, they can be held liable for their behaviour separately and/or in conjunction with the employer. This means that the employer can ultimately be held responsible for the behaviour of their employees, and therefore need to be proactive in education staff about their responsibilities and standards of behaviour that are acceptable in the workplace.
Employers can avoid liability for discrimination and harassment by demonstrating that they have taken reasonable steps to prevent this type of behaviour in the workplace.
All employers need to take reasonable steps to prevent or minimise discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace.
The law does not define reasonable steps because what is reasonable in one workplace, may not be reasonable in all workplaces.
Reasonable steps might include:
- implementation of appropriate workplace policies and practices;
- training and education of staff;
- the establishment of grievance and complaint procedures.