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What do I do if I have been Bullied at Work?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Firstly, if you are going through bullying and/or harassment at your place of work, I wanted to say - I'm sorry that you are going through this.

Your experience is to pleasant, and it is not right.

Your main question though, is: "What can I do about it?"

.... well, in one sense - plenty!

In another sense .... it depends.

Your rights at work are protected, by more than one legislative provision.

Let's go through the basics of Bullying and Harassment:

The definition of a bully is someone who: "seeks to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable.

Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can be psychological, physical, in person or on-line.

Bullying may be overt or covert.

There are four main types of bullying behaviour:

1. Physical – examples include: hitting, pushing, shoving or intimidating or otherwise physically hurting another person, damaging or stealing their belongings. It includes threats of violence

2. Verbal/written – examples include: name-calling or insulting someone about an attribute, quality or personal characteristic

3. Social (sometimes called relational or emotional bullying) – examples include: deliberately excluding someone, spreading rumours, sharing information that will have a harmful effect on the other person and/or damaging a person’s social reputation or social acceptance

4. Cyberbullying – any form of bullying behaviour that occurs online or via a mobile device. It can be verbal or written, and can include threats of violence as well as images, videos and/or audio.

What bullying is not:

  • single episodes of social rejection or dislike

  • single episode acts of nastiness or spite

  • random acts of aggression or intimidation

  • mutual arguments, disagreements or fights.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer (or manager), another person or group of people at work.

Workplace bullying can happen in any type of workplace, from offices to shops, cafes, restaurants, workshops, community groups and government organisations.

Workplace bullying can happen to volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices, casual and permanent employees.

Some types of workplace bullying are criminal offences.

If you have experienced violence, assault and stalking you can report it directly to the police.

What does bullying in the workplace look like?

  • repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, or making fun of your work or you as a person (including your family, sex, sexuality, gender identity, race or culture, education or economic background)

  • sexual harassment, particularly stuff like unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments and requests that make you uncomfortable

  • excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work

  • playing mind games, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment

  • intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued)

  • giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job

  • giving you impossible jobs that can't be done in the given time or with the resources provided

  • deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you

  • deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly

  • pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace

  • attacking or threatening with equipment, knives, guns, clubs or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon

  • initiation or hazing - where you are made to do humiliating or inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.


Just as we are all born with human rights we also have responsibilities to respect and protect the rights of others. This means that it is important to always be respectful of other people. We all have a responsibility to avoid all forms of bullying, including spreading gossip or making offensive comments about others online.

Respecting the rights of others applies to everyone, including people who are your friends and those who are not, people who are isolated, new to your school or workplace or may not be very popular.

If you see someone that has been bullied or treated badly you may be able to take safe and effective action to support them.

Human rights are important for everyone, everywhere, every day. All of our human rights are equally important and should be respected by everyone.

You have a right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and respectfully. Bullying or harassment can be a violation of these rights.

Bullying is an abuse of your human rights. It is a serious problem with serious mental and physical impacts. Bullying can affect you at home, school, work, in your social life and in your ability to feel happy, healthy and secure.

It is up to governments, schools, workplaces and individuals (including you) to make sure that every human right is respected.


Some of your rights that could be violated by bullying include:

1. Your right to be free from mental, emotional and physical violence;

2. Your right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;

3. Your right to survival and development;

4. Your right to work and have a fair and safe workplace;

5. Your right to leisure and play;

6. Your right to education;

7. Your right to participate and have your voice heard;

8. Your right to privacy.


A supportive bystander will take action to protect the rights of others.

A supportive bystander will use words and/or actions that can help someone who is being bullied.

If bystanders are confident to take safe and effective action to support victims then there is a greater possibility that bullying can stop and the person who is bullied can recover.

People respect those that stand up for others who are bullied but being a supportive bystander can be tough. Sometimes it is not easy to work out how to help safely because bullying happens in different ways and places such as online, at work or school.

What is the law in relation to workplace bullying and harassment?

Under anti-discrimination law, it is unlawful to treat a person less favourably on the basis of particular protected attributes such as a person’s gender, sexual orientation, race, disability or age. Examples of unlawful actions can include harassing or bullying a person. Workplace anti-discrimination law is set out in federal and state statutes. There are specific legal provisions for sexual harassment, racial hatred and disability harassment.


Bullying is defined under section 789FD of the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 (Cth) as when an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behave unreasonably towards a worker and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Bullying includes a range of behaviours such as:

  • yelling, screaming or offensive language;

  • excluding or isolating employees;

  • psychological harassment;

  • intimidation;

  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job;

  • giving employees impossible jobs;

  • deliberately changing work rosters to inconvenience particular employees;

  • undermining work performance by deliberately withholding information vital for effective work performance;

  • constant unconstructive criticism and/or nitpicking;

  • suppression of ideas; and

  • overloading a person with work or allowing insufficient time for completion and criticising the employees work in relation to this.


Harassment provisions are included across a range of legislation, including the following:

  • section 28A of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 defines sexual harassment as when a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, an unwelcome request for sexual favours, or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to a person. This occurs in circumstances where it is possible that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment can be subtle and implicit rather than explicit;

  • section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 prohibits offensive behaviour based on racial hatred. Offensive behaviour includes an act that is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin; and

  • section 25 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits harassment in relation to an employee’s disability.

There is equal opportunity legislation in each state and territory which also deals with sexual harassment at work.

According to the AHRC, some examples of harassment include:

  • telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups;

  • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails or text messages;

  • displaying racially offensive or pornographic posters or screen savers;

  • making derogatory comments or taunts about a person’s disability; or

  • asking intrusive questions about someone’s personal life, including their sex life.

Employers have a common law duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees, as well as additional duties under federal and state or territory work health and safety legislation. An employer’s duty of care to its employees may be breached if bullying or harassment (including sexual harassment) occurs within the workplace. Employers should be aware of the obligations and duties set out in relevant work health and safety legislation in each state and territory.


Bullying may also be discrimination if it is because of your age, sex, pregnancy, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or certain other reasons. Sexual harassment and racial hatred are also against the law. For more information on what anti-discrimination laws cover, and what you can do about it, look at the Australian Human Rights Commission page.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) refers to direct and indirect discrimination (sections 5 and 6).

The Act also requires reasonable adjustments (section 5 and 6) to be made for those with disabilities in the workplace, and prevents unjustifiable hardship (section 11) to be placed on a person with a disability.

Discrimination in employment is recognised in section 15 of the Act, as well as harassment in employment at section 35.

The Act provides for disability standards, which employers and others need to adhere to.

Your rights at work are protected, by more than one legislative provision.

What you can do if you are being bullied at work

1. Make sure you are informed;

2. Keep a diary - documenting everything that happens;

3. Get support from someone you trust or contact support services;

4. If it is safe, approach the bully;

5. Tell someone at your work;

6. Get information and advice;

If the bullying is serious, if the situation has not changed after complaining to your manager, or if there is not anyone you can safely talk to at work you can get outside information and advice.


  • your workplace health and safety authority to get advice and report bullying incidents

  • the Australian Human Rights Commission to get advice, or to make a complaint about discrimination, harassment and bullying covered by anti-discrimination law

  • the union representing your industry who can give you advice on your options and your rights

  • Andrea Consults for support, advocacy and representation.

Andrea Consults also provides non-adversarial ways to resolve disputes, including: mediation, conciliation, negotiations with a view of restorative justice form a human rights perspective.

7. Make a formal complaint to the state and territory workplace health and safety authority or to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Making a complaint about workplace bullying to the Australian Human Rights Commission

If you are been bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of your race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or because you have a disability or are pregnant you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission. Call 1300 656 419

The Commonwealth Fairwork Ombudsman can provide information and advice about Australia’s workplace rights and rules and the protection you have against harassment and discrimination. Call 131394

Report bullying to a State or Territory work health and safety authority

Your boss has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. You can report bullying incidences to the following state and territory work health and safety authorities.

Contact Unions Australia. You can get advice on workplace bullying from the Workers helpline 1300 486 466

To learn more about your rights at work see the Australian Council of Trade Unions website for students

Workplace relations

The Fair Work Commission (the Commission) is the independent national workplace relations tribunal. It carries out a range of functions relating to awards and agreements, termination and industrial action and disputes.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is responsible for ensuring cooperative, productive and harmonious workplace relations in the building industry.

The Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) is the independent regulator of unions and employer associations. It promotes compliance with financial reporting, efficient management and high standards of accountability.


Each state and territory has a local WORK SAFE office and an anti-discrimination body, which can consider and investigate breaches of state or territory anti-discrimination laws in workplaces. To resolve complaints, these bodies often use conciliation between both parties in their dispute resolution process.

Australian Capital Territory

  • WorkSafe ACT can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. Call 02 6207 3000 WEBSITE

  • ACT Human Rights Commission provides an independent, fair and accessible dispute resolution process for resolving individual discrimination complaints.

New South Wales

  • SafeWork NSW can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. Call 13 10 50 WEBSITE

  • Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales investigates complaints of discrimination covered by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.

Northern Territory

  • NT Worksafe can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. Call 1800 019 115 WEBSITE

  • Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission provides information about people’s rights and responsibilities under the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Act. They also accept and investigate complaints of discrimination.


  • Workplace Health and Safety Queensland can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. You can call the young workers advisory service 1300 362 128 and a Workplace Bullying hotline 1800 177 717 WEBSITE

  • Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland accepts complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and other contraventions of Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act. The Anti-Discrimination Commission resolves complaints using a conciliation process which is confidential, free and impartial.

South Australia

  • SafeWork SA can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. Call 1300 365 255 WEBSITE

  • Equal Opportunity Commission - South Australia assists people to resolve complaints of discrimination (including sex, race, disability or age), sexual harassment or victimisation covered by South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Act 1984.


  • WorkSafe Tas can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. Call 1300 366 322 (within Tasmania) or (03) 6166 4600 (outside Tasmania)WEBSITE

  • Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner - Tasmania accepts and investigates complaints of discrimination and other prohibited conduct.


  • Workplace Victoria can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. WEBSITE

  • Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provides a free, fair and timely dispute resolution service that accepts complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and racial or religious vilification.

Western Australia

  • WorkSafe WA can provide advice and help if you are experiencing workplace bullying. Call 1300 307 877 WEBSITE

  • Equal Opportunity Commission - Western Australia investigates complaints made by individuals who allege unlawful discrimination.

For further information or support, book in Andrea Consults today to receive compassionate, experienced mediation, conciliation, negotiation services from Andrea Consults, with a restorative justice focus from a human rights practice perspective.

Book in today!

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