Complaints

Overview

Complaints Overview

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (the Act) says that you can complain if YOU are:

  • the person who was affected by the discrimination or other conduct
  • a person who was affected and you want to complain on your own behalf and on behalf of other people who were also affected
  • a trade union and you have a member or members affected by the discrimination or other conduct
  • an organisation affected by discrimination or other conduct
  • the agent or are acting on behalf of a person affected by discrimination or other conduct
  • a person on behalf of a person affected by the discrimination, with the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner's approval.

Important information

  • you must complain within 12 months of the discrimination or other conduct happening.
  • there is no fee for lodging your complaint
  • there are no fees payable to the Commissioner's office during the process
  • there is no age limit on who can make a complaint, but there are special processes if the person is under 18 years of age.
  • you do not have to live in Tasmania to complain: if the act happened in Tasmania, it is likely to be covered by the Act; the Act may also apply to conduct that has a clear connection to Tasmania.

Complaint flowchart

The complaint flowchart describes the process once a complaint is lodged with Equal Opportunity Tasmania.

Complaint handling process

Complaint assessment

Complaint assessment

A complaint is made to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

The complaint is assessed against the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 and the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner determines whether the complaint can be dealt with under the Act ('accepted') or is outside the scope of the Act ('rejected').

If the complaint is rejected, the Commissioner writes to the person who made the complaint (who is called the 'complainant') telling them of the decision and the reasons the complaint has been rejected. The complainant is also told about their right to have that decision reviewed by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal and how to ask for a review.

Notifying those involved of the complaint

The person or organisation that the complaint is about (who is called the 'respondent') is generally only contacted if and when the Commissioner has decided the complaint can be dealt with under the Act. That is when the complainant/s and respondent/s are sent a letter telling them the complaint is being dealt with and why, and providing a copy of the complaint and a summary of it.

Meeting to try to resolve the complaint

They will usually also be asked to come to a conciliation conference, which is a meeting to talk about resolving the complaint. If they reach an agreement at the meeting, the complaint will end with the agreement.

Investigation of the complaint

Investigation of the complaint

If the complaint is going to be dealt with, the investigation process starts. This will include letters and documents to and from the complainant/s and respondent/s as well as others who might have relevant evidence in the form of documents and witness statements.

The Commissioner has 6 months to complete the investigation. If the investigation can't be finished in that time, she can ask the complainant to agree to her having more time.

At the end of the investigation there are 3 possible outcomes:

  1. the complaint is dismissed
  2. there is a further attempt to resolve the complaint through conciliation
  3. the complaint is referred to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for it to hold an inquiry

Complaint dismissed

If the complaint is dismissed, the Commissioner writes to the complainant/s and the respondent/s to tell them this decision and to give them the reasons for the decision. Those letters also tell the parties that the complainant has a right to ask the Tribunal to review the decision.

If a further conciliation process happens, but the complaint cannot be resolved, the Commissioner must then send the complaint to the Tribunal for it to hold an inquiry.

Providing information or documents (s 97)

Providing information or documents (s97)

If the Commissioner forms the view that a party or another person or organisation has information or documents relevant to the situation being investigated, the Commissioner may require the person to provide the information or documents using section 97 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998.

If the person refuses to do so 'without reasonable excuse' the person can be fined.

Section 97 of the Act says:

Information and documents

97.

(1)  The Tribunal, Commissioner or an authorised person may require any person to provide specified documents that the Tribunal, Commissioner or authorised person believes may be relevant to the complaint.

(2) A requirement is to be -

(a) in writing; and
(b) served on the relevant person.

(3) The Tribunal, What is a section 97 Notice?

A 'Section 97 Notice' is issued under section 97 of the Act.

If this happens, you will receive a letter from the Commissioner asking for 'specified information' or 'specified documents' (or both) under section 97.  The Commissioner's letter will enclose a copy of section 97 from the Act.

This means that you are obliged by law to answer the Commissioner's questions or provide relevant documents, unless you have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.

Withdrawing a complaint

Withdrawing a complaint

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (the Act) says that a complainant can apply to the Commissioner to withdraw his/her complaint at any stage of the complaint process.  If the Commissioner is satisfied that the application was made voluntarily, the withdrawal will be granted.  This means that the complaint comes to an end and the file is closed unless the Commissioner decides it is in the public interest to continue to investigate the situation.

Applying to withdraw

If a complainant wants to withdraw his or her complaint, they need to notify the Commissioner in writing and give their reasons for wanting to withdraw.  It is important to put these reasons in writing to be sure that the reasons are accurately recorded.

There are various reasons why a complainant may wish to withdraw his or her complaint.  These reasons may include the following:

  • The situation has been resolved;
  • The complainant has moved on and no longer wishes to proceed with the complaint;
  • The complainant does not want to pursue the complaint for personal reasons, eg, health reasons;
  • The complainant has agreed to withdraw the complaint as part of a settlement under another law – for example, worker's compensation.

Example of voluntary withdrawal:

Brandon lodges a complaint against a service provider.  His complaint is also investigated internally by the service provider and amendments are made to its service policies.  Brandon is satisfied with these changes and applies to withdraw his complaint.  The Commissioner accepts his reasons for withdrawal and the complaint is closed.

Granting a withdrawal

If the Commissioner is satisfied that the application to withdraw has been made voluntarily, then the Commissioner grants the withdrawal and records the terms of any agreement reached between the complainant and the respondent/s.  If no agreement has been reached, then the Commissioner simply grants the withdrawal and notifies the parties.  If the complaint is withdrawn before it is accepted for investigation, and the respondent/s have not been notified of the complaint, a letter confirming the withdrawal goes to the complainant only.  In each case the file is then closed.

Pressure to withdraw

The Commissioner can investigate what led a complainant to make an application to withdraw the complaint.  This is because people should not be pressured or threatened into withdrawing their complaint.

Threats could be made or pressure applied to the complainant by the respondent or by a person connected with the respondent who knows about the complaint.  Threats or pressure could be made directly to the complainant, or to a person associated with the complainant.

Example of pressure to withdraw:

Alice works at a business with her uncle, Fred.  Alice makes a complaint of sexual harassment against her boss, Carlos.  Alice applies to have her complaint withdrawn because Carlos has told Fred he will be sacked if Alice does not withdraw her complaint.

If the Commissioner is satisfied that the complaint was not withdrawn voluntarily, the investigation of the complaint may continue.  The Commissioner may also continue to investigate the complaint if it is in the public interest to do so.

As well, withdrawal of a complaint does not prevent the Minister of Justice from referring the complaint to the Tribunal for inquiry.

If a complainant is pressured or threatened to withdraw a complaint, this could amount to victimisation under the Act.  The complainant would have a right to make a fresh complaint of being victimised.

Representation

Representation

Parties involved in a complaint with Equal Opportunity Tasmania can choose at any time to be represented by a lawyer or advocate during the complaint handling process.

During the investigation

  • You need to apply in writing to the Commissioner for 'authorisation' or 'permission' to be represented during the investigation process of a complaint.
  • The Commissioner will deal with the lawyer or advocate and all letters will be sent to the lawyer or advocate and not the party.
  • It is the responsiblity of the lawyer/advocate to keep the party informed.

At dispute resolutions

Representation requests may be granted once a formal request has been made in writing to the Commissioner or by completing an application form.  You can request representation or to have an accompanying person attend.

A representative is a person who speaks on behalf of the complainant or respondent and therefore has 'speaking rights'.

An 'accompanying person' is a support person. They have no speaking rights during the resolution unless during the process both complainant and respondent agree that the accompanying person may speak.

Legal advice

At any stage of the complaint process you can obtain legal advice, at your own expense, from a lawyer or advocate, without having to get authorisation or permission from the Commissioner.  The person obtaining legal advice does not need to tell the Commissioner that they have obtained the advice, for it is everyone's right to do so.

Companies, corporations or departments

If a company, corporation or department has been named as a respondent to a complaint, no 'permission' or 'authorisation' is needed for a person in authority, with the powers to negotiate a settlement, to speak on behalf of the company.

If the company wishes to be represented by a lawyer or advocate during the investigation or resolution process they must seek approval from the Commissioner.

Dispute resolution meetings

Dispute resolution meetings

A Conciliation Conference is a private and confidential meeting between the person or people who made the complaint (the complainant/s) and those who the complaint was made about (the respondent/s).

Conciliation Conferences:

  • is an opportunity to speak frankly and openly about the situation complained about;
  • is an opportunity to explore ways of resolving the complaint;
  • is an opportunity for the complainant/s and respondent/s to have some control of the how the complaint can be resolved.

Conciliation Conferences are not an opportunity for arguing the case or making legal submissions.

Because a conciliation conference gives the complainant and respondent the opportunity to discuss how the complaint might be resolved, it means they can:

  • reach agreement without going to the Tribunal or court
  • resolve the complaint confidentially and cost-effectively
  • bring the dispute to an end, fully and finally

At the Conciliation Conference

  • The complainant/s and respondent/s are given an opportunity to talk about the issues raised in the complaint.
  • They do not present their 'case' as if they are in a court or tribunal hearing.
  • They will not be ordered to agree to anything. It is up to them to decide if they can agree on an outcome.

Rules applied at conciliation conferences

Fairness: each participant has time and opportunity to share their view of the situation

Courtesy: participants must treat one another with respect and courtesy

Constructiveness: participants are expected to be constructive and not obstructive

Confidentiality: what is said is not for discussion outside the conciliation conference. It is a confidential process.

Representing parties at conciliation

Person running the conciliation conference

The person running the meeting is called the conciliator.  It is their job to:

  • chair the meeting and keep it on track
  • explain the purpose and process of dispute resolution through conciliation to the people at the meeting
  • help the people at the meeting to explore ways to resolve the complaint
  • make sure everyone at the meeting is treated fairly throughout the process
  • make sure the complainant/s and respondent/s have time to explain their position

The conciliator is impartial and cannot give legal advice.  They do not decide what the outcome of the complaint should be.

They can explain what the Anti-Discrimination Act says about particular situations and how it has been interpreted in previous complaints.

Where will the conciliation conference be held?

Generally the conciliation conference is held in the Conference room at Equal Opportunity Tasmania, in Hobart.

If the participants are in another part of Tasmania (or outside Tasmania), the conciliation may be held in Launceston or Devonport, for example.

Sometimes the Commissioner will allow a person to participate in the conciliation conference by telephone conference.

Attending the conciliation

The Commissioner has the power to order people to come to a conciliation conference.

  • A person who is ordered to come to a conciliation conference, must do so. There can be a penalty for not attending.
  • If there is a good reason a person cannot come to the conciliation conference at the time, date or place scheduled, they can ask for it to be changed or to take part by phone.

These people may be asked or required to come to a conciliation conference:

  • Complainant/s: the person or people who made the complaint
  • Respondent/s: the person, people, or organisation against whom the complaint was made
  • Other people who may be able to help the parties to understand or resolve the complaint

Representation or support at the conciliation

  • A person who is attending the conciliation conference as a party can ask the Commissioner for permission to have a representative or a support person come with them
  • A person may use an interpreter at a conciliation conference. Equal Opportunity Tasmania will pay the costs of the interpreter.
  • If a company, business or department is a party to the complaint and required to participate in a conciliation, they must have someone attend the meeting on their behalf and that person must have the authority needed to agree on any resolution

Confidentiality

Conciliation Conferences are held in private.

Everything said, written or done in the Conciliation is confidential.

If agreement is reached to resolve the complaint, the parties can decide whether the details of the resolution are to be kept confidential.

This means that, other than any agreement reached, what is said, written or done in the conciliation conference must not be spoken about or written about outside the meeting and cannot to be taken into account in any later legal proceeding held in relation to the complaint.

This is important because it means the people at the conciliation conference can feel comfortable and confident to talk about the issues, and propose ways to resolve the complaint, without fear of those discussions being used against them later.

If the conciliation is done by written correspondence or with the parties in separate rooms, the confidentiality rule still applies.

Resolving the complaint

The complainant/s and respondent/s are asked to think about how the complaint might be resolved before participating in the conciliation process.

They are asked to think carefully and creatively about what they think is a fair and reasonable outcome.

The kind of outcomes that are identified as suitable generally depend on the nature of the complaint.  For example, if the complaint is about work issues, the complainant may, for example, want a written apology, a reference from the employer, anti-discrimination training for managers/supervisors and staff of the employer.

Agreement

If the parties reach an agreement on how to resolve the complaint, that agreement is legally binding and everyone involved must do what they have agreed to do.

To make sure that everyone remembers what was agreed, the conciliator will make a written record of the agreement and the parties will be asked to sign it. Once it is signed, the parties will be given a copy of the agreement, and the signed original will be kept on the Commissioner's file for the complaint.

An agreement is enforceable as if it were an order made by the Tribunal.

If someone doesn't do what they promised, the other party can ask the Supreme Court to enforce the agreement, or can ask the Commissioner to apply to the Supreme Court for this to happen.

Costs

Conciliation is a free service provided by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

Everyone coming to a conciliation conference must pay their own travel and meal costs, etc, and any legal fees if they are legally represented.

No agreement reached

If the conciliation conference does not result in an agreement on how to resolve the complaint, there may be further investigation by the Commissioner's investigator, or the complaint may be referred to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for Inquiry.

Investigations

Investigations

The investigation process commences immediately after the complaint lodged has been accepted by the Commissioner.  This means that possible breaches have been identified under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998.

The following is an overview of the usual investigation process:

  1. The Commissioner sends a copy and a summary of the complaint to the complainant and the named respondent and/or named organisation for their response. The Commissioner will ask the parties at this stage if they want to meet to try to resolve the complaint.

  2. The respondent's response is received and sent to the complainant for their reply.

  3. The complainant's reply is received and the Investigation Officer assigned to the complaint assesses the documents and identifies what further investigation is needed, such as collecting documentary evidence and witness statements.

  4. When the investigation process is complete the Commissioner determines whether the complaint should be dismissed, proceed to conciliation or referred directly to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

There is no charge for having a complaint investigated or conciliated, unless you seek legal representation.

Rights and obligations

Rights and obligations

Each party to a complaint has certain rights and obligations to ensure the complaint process is handled fairly and within reasonable time-frames.

Complainants and respondents should remember that Equal Opportunity Tasmania is an impartial body required to investigate complaints of discrimination and prohibited conduct under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (the Act).

Complainant's responsibilities

As a complainant, the complaint is your chance to state your position and provide relevant details of why you think you have been discriminated against.  It is your responsibility to put clearly, concisely and responsibly your statement about the discrimination you believe you have experienced.  If the complaint is accepted for investigation you are given a chance to comment on what the respondent says about your complaint.  The respondent is not notified of a complaint until after it is accepted for investigation.

It is the complainant's responsibility to ensure that:

  • your complaint is made in writing and signed by you and any other person making the complaint with you.
  • you identify the person/s, group of people, or organisation that you believe has discriminated against you.
  • you provide as many details as possible of the alleged discrimination or prohibited conduct.
  • you lodge your complaint in person, by post, or by other means that the Commissioner allows.
  • If you provide supporting documentation ensure you send copies and retain originals.
  • You provide requested information within the specified timeframe (usually 14 days).
  • You provide clear and accurate information, which is not false or misleading.

During the investigation, the Commissioner may require you to provide specific information or documents under section 97 of the Act.  It is your responsiblity to comply with any such request or provide a reasonable explanation as to why you cannot comply.

Respondent's responsibilities

Under the Act, you, as a respondent, are not required to provide a 'response' to a complaint.  However to ensure procedural fairness and natural justice, the Commissioner always asks for a response.  It is your chance to state your position, what you believe is important and what happened, responding to what is stated in the complaint and adding your own statement.

It is a respondent's responsibility to ensure that:

  • You reply within the specified timeframe (usually 14 days).
  • You request an extension of time in writing from the Commissioner if you have good reasons for not being able to meet a timeframe.
  • If you are not directly named as a respondent to the complaint, but are the responsible person in a company, business, organisation, club, agency etc that has been named as a respondent to the complaint, you respond for the organisation.
  • The information and other documentation you provide is clear and detailed.
  • If you provide supporting documents ensure you send copies and retain originals.
  • You provide accurate information, which is not false or misleading.

If you choose not to provide a response, the Commissioner may still require you to provide specific information or documents under section 97 of the Act.  It is your responsibility to comply with any such request or provide a reasonable explanation as to why you cannot comply.

Complainant and Respondent rights

You are entitled to confidentiality from this office - the Act says the Commissioner must have regard to the desirability of maintaining confidentiality of all persons involved in the investigation of complaints.  Your identity will not be revealed to anyone apart from the complainant or respondent, representatives or advocates, or to witnesses where information from witnesses is sought.

You are entitled to procedural fairness, including a chance to respond to a complaint or reply to a response - this may involve a longer investigation than you might have anticipated.  It is important to get all the facts before reaching a conclusion.

Equal Opportunity Tasmania cannot give legal advice, but you are entitled to procedural advice regarding any complaint you are involved in as complainant or respondent.  You may seek outside legal advice or assistance from your lawyer or community legal centre at any stage of the complaint process.

If you have difficulties writing, you may get someone to help you, or you may contact Equal Opportunity Tasmania to get assistance in completing your complaint or response.

You are entitled to write a complaint or put in a response in any language other than English. Equal Opportunity Tasmania will arrange translation.

Keeping the Commissioner up-to-date

It is your responsibility as a complainant or respondent to ensure that Equal Opportunity Tasmania can contact you during the complaint process:

  • Keep your contact details up-to-date- let us know if you change address, phone number or email.
  • If you are going away - interstate, overseas, on holiday, etc - let us know the dates you will be absent and provide contact details.
  • If you are ill and cannot reply to Equal Opportunity Tasmania correspondence, please try to make contact or ask someone else to make contact so that we know why you are not replying.
  • If we haven't heard from you for some time, a determination could be made without all the input you believe is important.

Please advise Equal Opportunity Tasmania during the complaint process if you require additional assistance or the services of an interpreter.

Anti-Discrimination Tribunal

If a complaint goes to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal all relevant information from both the complainant and respondent on the complaint file will be provided to the Tribunal.  All questions and additional correspondence must be directed to the Tribunal, not Equal Opportunity Tasmania.

If a complaint is rejected or dismissed the complainant has a right of review through the Tribunal.

If the Tribunal upholds the rejection or dismissal, the complaint lapses and the file is closed.  If the Tribunal overturns the rejection the complaint will be returned to the Commissioner for investigation.

If the Tribunal overturns the dismissal, the Tribunal holds an inquiry.  This is a hearing or trial where the parties give evidence on oath or affimation and are cross-examined and witnesses may be called.  At the end of an inquiry, the Tribunal decides if discrimination has occurred or not, and makes orders about compensation or dismissal,etc.

Tribunal contact details are:

The Registrar
Anti-Discrimination Tribunal
GPO Box 1311
HOBART  7001

or

7th Floor
50 Collins Street
Hobart  Tas  7000

Ph:   (03) 6166 4750

Anti-Discrimination Tribunal website

Complaint form and instructions

Complaint form and instructions

When you make your complaint of discrimination or other unlawful conduct you need to make sure it:

  • is in writing
  • is signed by you
  • tells us who you are complaining about
  • tells us who was affected by the discrimination or other unlawful conduct; and
  • gives us details of the alleged discrimination or other unlawful conduct, including what happened and when it happened.

Please write clearly.

You can include supporting material if it is relevant to the complaint. Please send us copies only. If the Commissioner needs to see the original, she will ask you to provide it.

You can write your complaint in a language other than English if it is the language you are most fluent in. The Commissioner will arrange for it to be translated at no cost to you.

If you have difficulty writing, please contact us and we will help you to write your complaint or refer you to an appropriate service that can help.

Personal information

If you provide personal information to Equal Opportunity Tasmania it is important that you read the Personal Information Protection Statement

How to send your complaint

Your complaint needs to be delivered to the Commissioner via one of the following methods.

Mail:

The Commissioner
Equal Opportunity Tasmania
GPO Box 197
Hobart Tas 7001

Email:

complaints@equalopportunity.tas.gov.au

Hand delivery:

Level 1, 54 Victoria Street, Hobart

Complaint form

You can use this form to make a formal complaint.

Complaint form (DOCX, 255.8 KB)

When you complete the complaint form it is important that you provide as much relevant information as possible. This will enable the Commissioner to fully consider whether or not your complaint should be accepted for investigation.

You do not have to use the complaint form. If you choose not to use the form, please ensure you have included all of the information we need to begin the complaint process.

What happens after a complaint is made

What happens after a complaint is made

1. Assessment decision

The first thing that is done is the complaint is assessed against the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) and  the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner makes a decision on whether the complaint should be accepted for investigation or rejected.

The Commissioner must decide whether to

  • accept a complaint for investigation, or
  • reject the complaint within 42 days after receiving it.

Acceptance of a complaint for investigation does not mean that a decision has been made that anyone has discriminated or done something unlawful. It means the complaint shows that the possibility of unlawful discrimination or conduct exists.

2. Notification of assessment decision

The person who made the complaint (the complainant) will get a letter from the Commissioner telling them if their complaint has been accepted or rejected.

If the complaint has been rejected, the letter will include the Commissioner's reasons for that decision.  The complainant can apply to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to have the Commissioner's decision reviewed.  The letter will tell the complainant how to apply for a review.

If the complaint has been accepted, the letter will include a summary of the complaint with details of the focus of the Commissioner's investigation.  The person or organisation against whom the complaint has been made (the respondent) will also be sent a letter with a copy of the complaint and a summary of issues and asked to respond.

3. Early resolution option

The complainant and the respondent(s) will be asked if they want to try to resolve the complaint quickly. If they both do, a meeting will be arranged so they can talk about possible solutions. The Commissioner may decide that the complainant and respondent(s) should meet to try to resolve the complaint at this stage even if they do not want to.

Agreements reached in an early resolution meeting are binding on the parties.

4. Investigation

If the complaint is not resolved early it will be investigated.  This can include collecting evidence such as witness statements and relevant documents from the complainant, the respondent, witnesses and other third parties.

5. Investigation decision

At the end of the investigation, the Commissioner considers all of the materials collected in the investigation and decides whether the complaint should:

  • Be dismissed;
  • Proceed to conciliation; or
  • Be referred to the Tribunal for an inquiry

The Commissioner does not have authority to decide whether or not the discrimination or other unlawful conduct took place.  This is the role of the Tribunal.

If a complaint is dismissed, the complainant has a right to ask the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to review that decision. The Act sets a 6-month time limit from when the respondent was first notified of the complaint for the investigation decision to be made, unless the complainant grants an extension of time for the investigation to continue.

Help with making a complaint

Help with making a complaint

If you are thinking about making a complaint of discrimination or other unlawful conduct you may contact us to speak to us about your situation and how to make your complaint.

We are not allowed to give you legal advice, but we can help you to write your complaint and can tell you about the process for dealing with your complaint.

Legal services

Do I need to be represented by a lawyer or advocate?

No. One of the aims of the Act is for people to be able to have discrimination and other unlawful conduct dealt with without needing legal representation.

Should I seek legal advice?

Sometimes, but not always, you may need to get legal advice. Legal representatives and/or advocates can provide independent advice about:

  • Preparing a complaint
  • Responding to a complaint
  • Options for how to deal with your situation, for example, sometimes your concerns may be better dealt with under another law or process
  • The strengths and weaknesses of your complaint
  • Ways your complaint might be resolved

For more information see Advocacy services page.

Responding to a complaint

Responding to a complaint

Equal Opportunity Tasmania is a neutral body, with the role of investigating complaints under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (the Act). Equal Opportunity Tasmania is not on anyone's 'side' and does not act for a complainant or a respondent.

The Act is not a criminal law.

When a complaint is received

When Equal Opportunity Tasmania receives a complaint, it is assessed to see if it should be accepted or rejected for investigation.  This assessment is made on the basis of what the complainant alleges in the complaint only.

If you are named as a respondent to the complaint – that is, a person or organisation against whom a complaint is made – you will not be contacted at this stage.  This is because the complaint may be rejected for investigation, in which case there is nothing for you to respond to.

Rejection of a complaint

If the Commissioner rejects the complaint, the complainant has a right to seek a review of that decision through the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (Tribunal).

If the Tribunal believes the Commissioner was correct in rejecting the complaint, the complaint lapses.  This means that this is the end of the complaint and no further action is taken.

If the Tribunal believes the Commissioner was incorrect in rejecting the complaint, the complaint will be returned to the OADC for investigation.  It is at this stage that the OADC will notify the respondent that a complaint has been received.

Acceptance of a complaint

A complaint is accepted for investigation if the Commissioner is satisfied that there is a possible breach of the Act.  At this stage, the complainant does not have to prove that the discrimination or prohibited conduct occurred.  It is sufficient if the complainant provides sufficient material that shows there is a possible breach of the Act.

If the Commissioner accepts the complaint for investigation, or the Tribunal returns a complaint to Equal Opportunity Tasmania for investigation, Equal Opportunity Tasmania must notify the respondent within 10 days.

Equal Opportunity Tasmania will write to you and provide you with a summary of the complaint or a copy of the complaint, with the complainant's consent, and ask for a response.  The response is your opportunity to have your say and provide your account of events.

If the complainant names an organisation as the respondent, a response needs to be provided by the person who has authority to speak on behalf of the organisation.  For example, the managing director, chief executive officer or human resources manager.

Equal Opportunity Tasmania cannot give legal advice, but you are entitled to procedural advice regarding any complaint you are involved in as a respondent.  You may seek outside legal advice or assistance from a lawyer or community legal centre at any stage of the complaint process.

If you remain unsure of your responsibilities as a respondent or have any questions, please contact the Equal Opportunity Tasmania for further information.

Being asked to respond

Equal Opportunity Tasmania asks for a response from you so that you have an opportunity to say what happened in response to what is alleged by the complainant.  'Natural Justice' means that you must have an opportunity to be heard.

However, you cannot be forced to respond.  The Act imposes no penalty on you if you do not send a response to Equal Opportunity Tasmania at this stage.

Equal Opportunity Tasmania asks for a response within 14 days of being notified of the complaint.  If you have any difficulty responding to a complaint within 14 days, you must let Equal Opportunity Tasmania know.  We can give you an extension of time, if you have good reasons

My response

A copy of your response will be sent to the complainant. Equal Opportunity Tasmania asks the complainant to reply to what you have said within 14 days.  The complainant may be given an extension of time, if he or she has good reasons

Investigation questions

During an investigation, both respondents and complainants may be asked questions in order to assist the Commissioner to obtain the relevant information.  The questions will usually be in writing, so that you have a proper chance to consider them and take advice if you wish.

At this stage, there is no penalty for not providing Equal Opportunity Tasmania with answers to questions.

Relevant information or documents

Under section 97 of the Act, the Commissioner can require the complainant, respondent, witness or any other person to provide specified information or documents that may be relevant to a complaint.

If you are required to provide information or documents under section 97, you must answer the questions or provide the documents, unless you have a reasonable excuse for not doing so.  If you fail to provide this information to the Commissioner, without reasonable excuse, you could be fined.

If you are having difficulty providing the information or documents you must contact Equal Opportunity Tasmania and ask for an extension of time to reply.

End of investigation

At the end of the investigation, the Commissioner will determine whether the complaint should be:

  • Dismissed;
  • Directed to Conciliation; or
  • Referred to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for inquiry.

If you do not provide a response or information that is requested of you, the Commissioner will make a decision based only on what the complainant says, without your full account of events.

Assistance

Please advise the office prior to an appointment if you require special assistance or the services of an Interpreter/Auslan.

Report it! case studies

Report it! case studies

  • A bystander reported that a young hijab wearing mother with two small children was approached by an unknown person in the bus mall who yelled at her, calling her a terrorist and threatening her. The person then started to follow the woman and children around. She reported being terrified. To escape the abuse, the woman and her children sought safety in the shop of a local charity. A support worker from the organisation assisted her and walked with her to the police station to report the incident.
  • A young person of Korean-Australian background visiting his local library was told by an older male client to ‘go back to your country’. Staff at the library intervened and asked the man to behave respectfully to other clients. The man complied for a while but later called the young Korean person a ‘chink’. Staff again intervened and banned the older client from the library for a day. The young person was however extremely upset and left soon after.
  • A young female employee who had been bullied and sexually harassed by another employee over a long period of time reported her concern that the processes for dealing with her complaint to management left her feeling that she had been treated unfairly. She reported that she believed that the alleged perpetrator was given more opportunity to have their say and that she had been provided with little information about what was happening. As a result her health deteriorated and she was forced to take more time off work. She believes that the process for dealing with complaints is too arduous and that the alleged perpetrator is given more rights than the victim. As a result she felt she had no option other than to seek the services of a lawyer to have the situation resolved.
  • A student reported his concern about stickers that has been produced and were being circulated at his educational institution which were disparaging of LGBTI people.
  • A member of parliament reported receiving multiple copies of anti-Semitic hate speech in their office. They advised that they had also reported the material to the Australian Federal Police. The source of the material was unknown and was sent anonymously.
  • A support teacher at a high school reported several instances of racist abuse against a young migrant student. The student was sad and angry about their ongoing treatment and asked for Equal Opportunity Tasmania support to help resolve the problem.

Complaint case studies

Complaint case studies

Sexual harassment at work function

The complainant alleged that she was sexually harassed in the workplace and subjected to discrimination and other prohibited conduct (e.g asked if she wants to have sex).  She also alleges that her husband was victimised for supporting her by making a complaint about the alleged sexual harassment. Both her and her husband resigned due to the stress.

It was agreed that the complainant be paid $20,000, and that the organisation provide anti-discrimination training to its staff from Equal Opportunity Tasmania. Both parties agreed not to disparage one another and to keep the agreement confidential.

Apology follows complaint of gender discrimination

The complainant alleged that their CV was not accepted by the organisation because of their gender. It was agreed at conciliation that the organisation would engage Equal Opportunity Tasmania to train its staff. Both respondents apologised verbally to the complainant during the conciliation.

Conciliation leads to better access

The complainant alleged that a proposed new development would not have an accessible car parking space.  Following a conciliation conference, the service provider agreed to install a disability car parking space. There was also a mutual non-disparagement clause between the complainant and individual respondents.

Discrimination on the basis of mental illness resolves at conciliation

The complainant alleged discrimination on the basis of disability and irrelevant medical record, conduct that is humiliating, intimidating, insulting, ridiculing or offensive on the basis of disability and victimisation.

The complainant alleged that the employer doubted their capacity to work in their profession because of a mental health issue and because they took some personal leave. The complainant resigned. The complaint resolved at conciliation with the payment of $20,000 and a statement of service.

Conciliation restores working relationship

The complainant was in their 60s. The complainant alleged that managers were discussing who would replace them when they retired. The complaint was accepted for investigation because it disclosed possible age discrimination and offensive, humiliating, insulting or ridiculing conduct on the basis of age.

The complainant also complained about other staff, but those matters did not indicate a possible breach of the Act.

At the time of making the complaint, the complainant was on extended sick leave.

The complaint was resolved following a conciliation conference. The employer agreed to take reasonable steps to facilitate the complainant’s return to work in accordance with its policies and procedures. The employer also agreed to arrange external mediation between and the complainant and other staff.

Disability discrimination in employment

The complaint took leave from work to undergo scheduled surgery. The complainant alleged that despite being given clearance to return to work, aside from one restriction for a period of time their employer prevented them from returning to work and did not provide reasonable accommodation to enable a return to work.

The complaint was resolved at early conciliation with the respondent acknowledging the complainant’s frustration during the return to work process and agreeing to review its return to work process. The respondent also agreed to ensure a fair and equitable rostering practice.

Sexual harassment in employment

The complainant alleged sexual harassment against their employer. The allegations included comments both written and verbal, and conduct of a sexual nature that was unwelcomed by the complainant. The complainant asserted they did not complain to their employer about the conduct due to the high standing of the respondent in the industry they both worked in, and the possible consequences to the complainant’s employment if they did make a formal complaint.

The complaint was resolved at conciliation with the individual respondent agreeing to provide a personal written apology to the complainant, and to complete discrimination and prohibited conduct training. The organisational respondent agreed to review its policies and procedures manual and to pay compensation to the complainant. The parties also agreed not to make false or misleading statements about each other.

Complaint highlights rights of parents and step-parents

The complainant was in a same-sex relationship. The complainant had a child with her former partner and complained that her current partner had been treated less favourably by being excluded from an appointment for the complainant’s child. The child’s mother had withdrawn permission for the partner to attend. The complainant alleged discrimination on the basis of relationship status and parental status in the provision of a service.

The complaint was rejected because the reason why the partner could not attend the appointment was because the legal parent of the child had withdrawn permission. The complainant’s current partner was not a legal parent of the child.

Complaint results in local Council developing disability access plan

The complainant had lodged a complaint of disability discrimination against a local Council. The complainant used a wheelchair and had alleged the local Council did not provide accessible parking spaces at a Council site.

The complaint resolved at a conciliation conference conducted by Equal Opportunity Tasmania. At the conference the complainant and the respondent discussed the parking issue and also discussed wider issues of concern for people with disability in the local area.

As well as agreeing to resolve the parking issue, the Council also wanted to develop a disability access plan, in consultation with the complainant and local community groups. The disability access plan will identify areas for improvement, and set out actions to make those improvements, to make the local community more accessible and inclusive for people with disability.

Employer refused to allow worker who had been off work due to illness to return to work part time

Equal Opportunity Tasmania received a complaint from a worker who had been off work due to illness. The worker’s doctor had said the worker would need to do a gradual return to work, initially working part-time and building up to full-time hours. The employer refused this and alleged the work required one person working full-time in the role.

The complaint resolved at a conciliation conference conducted by Equal Opportunity Tasmania. The complaint resolved by (among other things) the employer agreeing to pay the worker $20,000 compensation.

Complaint withdrawn after receiving response to complaint

The complainant alleged age discrimination in the provision of facilities, goods and services. The complainant, an older athlete, entered a sporting event to be held in Tasmania. The rules of the sporting event said that sports could combine age groups if there were not enough competitors in one age group. The complainant was concerned that older athletes would need to compete against younger athletes and would not be able to win medals.

After being notified of the complaint, the organiser of the sporting event explained that sports were allowed to combine age groups if there were not a minimum number of participants. This was to ensure meaningful competition and that events were run in a timely manner. However, medals would still be awarded for each age group.

The complainant was satisfied with this explanation and withdrew the complaint.

Complaint about offensive sign during the period of the same-sex marriage law survey

During the same-sex marriage law survey, a person had put a sign up at his property describing anal sex in a crude way and linking this to same-sex marriage. There had been media reporting of the sign. A person who had driven past the sign had made a complaint.

Equal Opportunity Tasmania conducted a conciliation conference between the person who had made the complaint, and the person who was displaying the sign. Following a discussion of the issues, the parties agreed to issue a joint statement and agreed to resolve the complaint. The joint statement said (amongst other things) that:

  • Both of the parties agree that in public debates everyone has the right to express an opinion.
  • Both of the parties agree that this needs to be done in a respectful way and that does not breach the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas).
  • The respondent stated that given their time again, they would not have used the words they did.

Disability discrimination in the provision of services complaint

The complainant who uses crutches to walk booked a cruise through her travel agent in response to reading a flyer from the cruise company.

The complainant alleged disability discrimination after they were charged more for the accessible cabins located on the outside of the cruise ship.

At conciliation the parties agreed to resolve the complaint by reimbursement of the extra cost and for the cruise company to include information in its flyer about the limitations of it vessel for people with limited mobility.

Complaint rejected and decision reviewed by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal

The complainant alleged discrimination on the basis of age and industrial activity in the area of employment. The complainant’s employment was terminated and they alleged they were bullied and mistreated by staff.

When the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner sought more information about the complaint, the complainant said they didn’t believe they had been discriminated against on the basis of age.

The complainant thought the discrimination related to industrial activity because they had made an application to the Fair Work Commission against their previous employer.

The Commissioner rejected the complaint because there was insufficient information to show that the complainant was discriminated against on the basis of age and industrial activity. There was no information to show that the employer was aware that the complainant had made an application to the Fair Work Commission against their previous employer.

The complainant applied to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to review the Commissioner’s decision to reject the complaint.

The Tribunal reviewed the decision and decided the Commissioner made a correct decision to reject the complaint. The Tribunal looked at the information the complainant had provided to the Commissioner and more information provided by the complainant to the Tribunal. The further information included that a supervisor said to the complainant ‘I am older than you’.

The Tribunal noted that it is not enough that someone has a belief they have been discriminated against because of their age or industrial activity, there must be facts that support it. In this case, there was no evidence to support it. There was only one instance of a supervisor saying he was older than the complainant. The Tribunal also held there was no evidence to support that the complainant’s employer knew about the employee’s previous application to the Fair Work Commission or discriminated against them because of it.

Conciliation provides avenue for parties to repair ongoing professional relationship

The complainant is profoundly deaf. In the complaint, it was alleged that the respondent, although being aware of the complainant’s need for an interpreter, refused to provide one to assist them to complete a course.

The Commissioner accepted the complaint on the basis the allegations disclosed possible indirect discrimination.

Indirect discrimination occurs when:

  • There is a condition, requirement or practice.
  • The condition, requirement or practice is unreasonable in all the circumstances.
  • The condition requirement or practice has the effect of disadvantaging the complainant.
  • The complainant is disadvantaged as a member of a group of people who are, or are believed to share, a prescribed attribute, more than a person who is not a member of that group.

An early conciliation conference was held and the parties came to an agreement to resolve the complaint. The parties were then able to move forward with an ongoing professional relationship.

Sexual harassment complaint goes to Anti-Discrimination Tribunal

The complainant alleged that the respondent made comments about her being a ‘pretty girl’, ‘having what it takes’, that ‘sex sells’, looked her up and down and encouraged her to dress in a certain way.

The respondent also allegedly told the complainant to get used to inappropriate sexual comments from customers because it happens often.

The complaint was accepted for investigation on the basis that the complainant may have been:

  • discriminated against on the basis of gender;
  • offended, humiliated, intimidated, insulted or ridiculed on the basis of gender; and
  • sexually harassed.

The complaint was unable to be resolved by conciliation and the complaint was referred to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for inquiry.

Complaint resolved at conciliation

The complainant is a member of a religious organisation. The respondent posted a link on their Facebook page to a video which said that the complainant and their religious organisation engaged in paedophilia.

The complaint was accepted for investigation because it raised possible:

  • Discrimination on the basis of religious belief or affiliation: this takes place when a person is treated less favourably because of their religious belief or affiliation, than a person who does not have this religious belief or affiliation.
  • Inciting hatred on the basis of religious belief or affiliation: this takes place when a person does a public act from which an ordinary member of the audience could understand that they were being incited to hatred, in this case on the basis of the complainant’s religious belief or affiliation.
  • Promoting discrimination and prohibited conduct: this takes place when a person publishes or displays a sign, notice or advertising matter that promotes, expresses or depicts discrimination or other conduct made unlawful by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas). The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner decided it was possible that a post on Facebook could be an electronic sign or notice.

The complaint was resolved at conciliation with the respondent agreeing to remove the posts and post an apology on Facebook. The apology said that the respondent had not watched the whole video and there was no proof of the allegations made in the video in relation to the complainant and their religious organisation.

Complainant and respondent work together to sort complaint out

The complainant alleged discrimination on the basis of disability, in connection with accommodation.

The complainant had a lease agreement with the respondent.

The complaint was accepted for investigation on the ground that the respondent sent a letter to the complainant which said that the complainant’s lease was unable to be renewed because of their health condition.

The complaint was resolved at an early conciliation conference where the parties had an in-depth discussion about the issues in the complaint and how to move forward.

The parties came to an agreement to resolve the complaint, which included the continuation of the complainant’s lease.

Complaint rejected as complainant could not show the reason he did not get a job was his race

A complaint was received from a person who was born overseas. The complainant had applied for a job, but was not successful. The complainant alleged that this was race discrimination.

The Anti-Discrimination Commissioner rejected the complaint. In rejecting the complaint, the Commissioner said that there needs to be some evidence to show that the person’s race was the reason for the alleged discrimination (in this case not getting the job). The Commissioner noted that there was no evidence (other than the complainant’s belief) to show the complainant’s race was the reason they did not get the job, and rejected the complaint on this basis.