Work Protections, Discrimination & Sexual Harassment

Many workers are unaware of the full extent of their protections, some of which apply when applying for a position as well as during the employment.

Protected Workplace Rights

Protections provided by the Fair Work Act include:

  • protecting your workplace rights to make a complaint or enquiry about your employment, such as:
    • being paid correctly;
    • receiving your lawful entitlements;
    • occupational health and safety matters.
  • protecting against coercion, intimidation and misrepresentation;
  • protecting you from sham contracting;
  • protecting freedom of association;
  • providing protection from discrimination at work;
  • providing effective relief for anyone who is discriminated against, victimised, or otherwise treated unfairly at work.

A person such as an employer or supervisor, must not terminate you, discriminate between you and other workers or treat you unfavourably because you have a workplace right, have exercised a workplace right, or you propose to exercise a workplace right.

Anti-Discrimination Protections

Protections are also provided by state and federal anti-discrimination laws, by which a worker should not be treated unfavourably at work or when applying for work because of their age, family responsibilities, gender identity, impairment, religion or other protected characteristic.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is done either to offend, humiliate or intimidate another person, or where it is reasonable to expect the person might feel that way. It includes uninvited physical intimacy such as touching in a sexual way, uninvited sexual propositions, and remarks with sexual connotations.

How WorkLegal can Help

A WorkLegal lawyer can advise you if a workplace protection applies in your situation and advise on the best course of action to follow.  In some cases action can be taken during your employment, as well as if your employment has already been terminated.

WorkLegal is dedicated to achieving the best result for you.

Important time limits may apply so Contact WorkLegal today.  We can help, wherever you work.

Concerned about a Workplace Protections, General Protections, Discrimination or Sexual Harassment issue? Contact us for early advice.

1300 223 398


Case Study – Complaint of Bullying by a Supervisor

A university professor was unhappy with the management style of her supervisor, the vice-chancellor of the university.  The vice-chancellor had stated in an internal memorandum that the professor’s continued position was “untenable”.  In a meeting the professor complained that the vice-chancellor had tried to intimidate her, acted in an authoritarian manner and was bullying her.  She later made a formal complaint.  An investigation of the complaint did not find that bullying had occurred but was critical of how the professor had been removed from a leadership role she had held.  The professor notified an industrial dispute and an agreement was reached about her ongoing role.  Two months later the university initiated a redundancy process and then notified that she was being made redundant.  Significantly, the vice-chancellor failed to keep any record of the reasons why the professor should be selected for redundancy, and could not give a clear and cogent process of reasoning leading to the conclusion the professor needed to be made redundant.  The court found that the university had unlawfully made use of its redundancy processes to rid itself of an employee, who was considered to be troublesome, at least partly because she was prepared to exercise her workplace rights by making complaints about the behaviour of her immediate supervisor.

National Tertiary Education Union v Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology [2013] FCA 451 (16 May 2013)

Case Study – Discrimination towards an Injured Worker

An Australia Post driver was injured at work when he stumbled and twisted his hip.  He had longstanding back problems.  He applied for workers’ compensation, which was known to his supervisors.  His employment was terminated when his application was still being assessed.  Australia Post said he was terminated for having missed a work “pick-up” but could not produce any contemporaneous record clearly stating the reasons for the termination other than the letter of termination.  Australia Post was unable to prove that the reasons for termination did not include the worker’s back disability, and the worker was reinstated to his position as a driver. 

Stephens v Australian Post Corporation [2011] FMCA 448

Case Study – Sexual Harassment at Work

Two school cleaners pranked another cleaner when they set up a staff room to appear as though the room had been used as a sex romp.  The room had empty alcohol bottles, clothes and a condom containing fluid.  A co-worker invited the cleaner to sniff the boxer shorts left in the room.  The cleaner was distressed as he thought he was cleaning up bodily fluids.  After the cleaner complained of sexual harassment a co-worker pretended to photograph him and gestured with his middle finger to the cleaner’s wife and children at the school. 

The cleaner suffered a psychological disorder with anxiety and depression and was unable to work for 2 years. 

The tribunal award damages of more than $150,000 made up of pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life; past and future loss of income and superannuation, and treatment costs.

Green v State of Queensland  [2017] QCAT 008

Need help?

Don’t leave it too late. Wherever you are in Australia we can help.


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1300 223 398


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Office: 155 Varsity Parade, Varsity Lakes, QLD 4217

Based in Gold Coast Queensland, we assist our valued clients wherever they are in Australia.