Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:
Conciliation is the process through which the parties involved in any allegation, with assistance from a neutral person (a conciliator), discuss the issues in order to develop options and consider alternatives with the goal of reaching a consensual agreement or outcome.
Conciliator is a trained person appointed by the Director, Human Resources to conciliate between the parties in a non-judgemental and independent manner. In some circumstances, an external person may be appointed as a conciliator.
Equity Support Officers are identified members of the University community, trained as required to provide information and support on options for resolving harassment and discrimination complaints. They will not investigate or conciliate a complaint.
Grievance is a concern or complaint about an act, behaviour, omission, situation or decision, which an individual believes is unfair or unjustified.
Investigator is a person appointed by the Director, Human Resources to investigate a formal complaint. In some circumstances, an external person may be appointed as an investigator.
Respondent is the person(s) against whom a complaint is made.
1. Purpose of procedures
These procedures apply to staff engaged in all activities central to, or reasonably connected with, their role at the University. This includes field trips, fieldwork and social functions directly related to the activities of the University. These procedures are designed to ensure that all complaints are effectively dealt with in a sensitive, timely and confidential manner, and in accordance with the principles of natural justice.
There are several options for dealing with complaints of discrimination and harassment. Multiple options may be appropriate in some circumstances, and procedures may commence in any order or at any stage. Individuals should choose the option with which they feel most comfortable. At any time, an individual may contact their supervisor or Human Resource staff for assistance.
2.1 Informal Procedures
2.1.1 Option 1: Deal with the matter individually
An individual may attempt to resolve the matter personally. In this option, an individual will complain or object to the behaviour or action directly with the respondent (s) involved, making it clear that the behaviour or action is offensive and unacceptable. This may be done in writing, e.g. by email, or directly in person, in which case it is recommended that the complainant keep a record of the discussion.
2.1.2 Option 2: Deal with the matter individually with advice from an Equity Support Officer, Human Resources staff or your Supervisor. Contact an Equity Support Officer, a Human Resources Consultant/Adviser or your Supervisor, who can provide information about your rights and responsibilities and suggest options on how best to deal with the situation.
2.1.3 Option 3: Conciliation: Contact the Director, Human Resources directly. The Director, Human Resources may assign a conciliator. The Director, Human Resources or the conciliator will approach the respondent and detail the complaint. All parties will be given the opportunity to state their case and how they would see the situation being resolved. The conciliator will assist the parties to attempt to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Depending on the circumstances, the identity of the complainant(s) will not be disclosed to the respondent unless agreed by the complainant(s).
2.2 Formal Procedures
2.2.3 Option 4: Formal Complaint
A formal complaint may be made in writing, by the complainant, to the Director, Human Resources.
a) The complaint must contain sufficient details for consideration of any allegations by the Director, Human Resources. In cases where the complaint is considered lacking in sufficient detail, the complainant may be advised to contact a Human Resources Consultant/Adviser or interpreter for further assistance.
b) In the case of a complaint against the Director, Human Resources, the complaint should be made to the Chief Operating Officer, who will assume the responsibilities detailed in d) – h).
c) A formal complaint would normally be made within 12 months of the last occurrence of the alleged discrimination or harassment.
d) The Director, Human Resources will acknowledge receipt of the written complaint within 5 working days. The particulars of the complaint will be provided to the respondent.
e) The Director, Human Resources may establish an investigation to be conducted by a suitable person (the Investigator) unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that the complaint is ill founded. The Investigator will have had no former involvement in the complaint and they will have access to all persons and information they consider relevant, including the respondent(s) to the complaint.
f) If the Director, Human Resources decides that the complaint does not constitute a breach of the University’s Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment – Governing Policy, the Director, Human Resources will inform the complainant in writing that no further action will be taken and the reason(s) for the decision.
g) If the Director, Human Resources decides that the complaint does constitute a breach of the University’s Anti-Discrimination and Freedom from Harassment – Governing Policy, the Director, Human Resources may commence misconduct or serious misconduct proceedings as provided for under the University’s Enterprise Agreement.
h) Should a formal complaint be made before the informal procedures are followed, the Director, Human Resources can try to resolve the matter informally.
2.2.4 Option 5: Complaint to an External Agency
The University recognises an individual’s right to refer a complaint to a relevant external agency at any time. External agencies may include the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission (QADC), or union. These actions are outside the scope of the University Complaint Procedures.
2.3 Respondent Support
The respondent to a formal or informal complaint of discrimination or harassment can seek assistance from the Director, Human Resources.
2.4 Record Keeping
For options 2 and 3, a confidential ‘Incident Report’ must be completed by Equity Support Officers, the Director, Human Resources or Conciliators for all complaints. An Incident Report will not include any identifying material, but will include the status, broad area of employment, as appropriate, of the complainant and respondent, as well as the nature of the complaint and the action taken.
In the case of Option 4, a formal complaint, the finding, the action taken and all other documentation relating to the complaint will be kept in a confidential file with access restricted to persons specified by the Director, Human Resources. All documents will be held in accordance with the University’s records policies. If a complaint is subsequently lodged with an external body, records may need to be accessed in order to demonstrate that reasonable steps were taken to deal with matter.
It is essential to keep confidential all information about alleged harassment and discrimination before, during and after the complaint resolution process. This is to ensure fair treatment and process, to protect the complainant(s) and respondent(s), to minimise the risk of victimisation and to avoid defamation proceedings. For these reasons, only those directly and legitimately involved in the resolution process should be informed about the details of a complaint and only then with the complainant’s consent. In the event of a breach of confidentiality, the matter will be investigated by the Director, Human Resources and action taken as appropriate.
Defamation is the publication of a statement about a person, which causes that person’s reputation with other people to be lowered, or causes them to be shunned, avoided or brought into ridicule. An accusation of harassment or discrimination can be potentially defamatory if confidentiality is not observed and an individual’s reputation is damaged.
It is not defamatory for an individual to confront an alleged harasser directly (either in person or by mail) to alert them that their behaviour is unwelcome, nor is it defamatory to make a complaint to a person who has a legitimate interest in knowing about an incident in order to seek redress under these procedures. Information provided in a complaint may be subject to disclosure resulting from an application made under the Queensland Information Privacy Act (2009). University complaint procedures may protect against defamation under the laws relating to defamation. The risk of defamation can be minimised if a complaint is handled by as few people as possible and confidentiality is strictly observed. Protection from a defamation action may be lost if the complaint is false, or is made in bad faith and is motivated by malice, i.e. made solely or largely with the intention of causing harm to the respondent.
Victimisation is the imposition of unjust penalties or taking unjust detrimental action against a person who reasonably asserts their own or another person’s rights under these procedures, has made or proposes to make a complaint, and/or appears or proposes to appear as a witness for a formal investigation. Victimisation of any person involved in a complaint is unacceptable and may constitute an infringement of the Staff Code of Conduct.
2.8 Vexatious Complaints
Vexatious complaints are those that are false or are made in bad faith and are motivated by malice, for example made solely or largely with the intention of causing harm to the respondent. Protection for a complainant from a defamation action may be lost where a complaint is found to be vexatious. Further it may constitute an infringement of the Staff Code of Conduct and the University may commence misconduct or serious misconduct proceedings as provided for under the University’s Enterprise Agreement.
2.9 Education and Monitoring
The Director, Human Resources will perform an educative role in the elimination of discrimination and harassment and take action to implement these procedures. This includes the selection and training of Equity Support Officers and Conciliators as required, the development and distribution of publicity material to the University community, the arrangement of awareness raising programs and the provision of training for University staff. Names, locations and contact details for Equity Support Officers will be provided via the University website.
Incident Reports will be monitored by the Director, Human Resources.
|Managers and supervisors||Ensuring that, when an allegation of discrimination or harassment is brought to their attention, they take appropriate action to remedy the situation expeditiously.|
|Director, Human Resources||Monitoring and reporting regularly to the Vice-Chancellor and President on staff discrimination and harassment complaints.|