All organisations are required to operate without discrimination or other unlawful conduct.
It is essential that organisations operating in Tasmania are aware of and understand their responsibilities under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) (the Act), which is broader than Federal anti-discrimination law and some other state/territory discrimination laws.
Obligations 'Reasonable Steps'
The Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 ('the Act') places obligations on all Tasmanian organisations/employers to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure that all its members, officers, employees, and agents are protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Any organisation that does not comply with these legal responsibilities is liable for any contravention of this Act.
Section 104 of the Act says, organisations must:
- ensure that its members, officers, employees and agents are made aware of the discrimination and prohibited conduct to which this Act relates;
- ensure that the terms of any order made by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal relating to that organisation are brought to the notice of its members, officers, employees and agents whose duties mean that they may engage in conduct of the kind to which the order relates;
- ensure that no member, officer, employee or agent of the organisation engages in, repeats or continues such conduct; and
- take reasonable steps to ensure that no member, officer, employee or agent of the agency/organisation engages in discrimination or prohibited conduct.
There are a number of reasonable steps an organisation can take to ensure their workplace is free from harassment, discrimination they are:
- adopting an Anti-Discrimination policy and/or an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy;
- formulating internal grievance handling procedures;
- widely publicising policies and procedures to all employees;
- selecting, appointing and training Contact Officers with support networks;
- providing anti-discrimination training and/or information to all employees including Managers and Supervisors;
- ensuring complaints are investigated promptly and confidentially according to set policies and procedures;
- develop a strategy for dealing with anonymous complaints.
It is important that employers/organisations focus on prevention and appropriate responses when dealing with discrimination and harassment. ‘Reasonable steps’ may vary in accordance with the size of a business. A large corporation’s reasonable expectations are likely to differ to the ‘reasonable steps’ required of a small business.
When responding to a complaint an employer/organisation who has developed good workplace practices should be able to show that it took ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent discrimination and harassment and responded appropriately once it was made aware of the issue.