Manual of Policies and Procedures

A/8.5 Grievance resolution procedures for discrimination related grievances

Contact Officer

Equity Director

Approval Date

19/04/2018

Approval Authority

Vice-Chancellor

Date of Next Review

30/04/2021

8.5.1 Purpose
8.5.2 Application
8.5.3 Roles and responsibilities
8.5.4 Choices for persons alleging discrimination or harassment
8.5.5 Discrimination Contact Officers
8.5.6 Other considerations
8.5.7 Three level grievance resolution process
8.5.8 Definitions
Related Documents
Modification History

8.5.1 Purpose

The University is committed to promoting a harmonious, fair and just working and learning environment, and ensuring access to processes that allow for conflict to be resolved. QUT's equal opportunity and diversity policy (A/8.4) sets out QUT’s commitment to a University culture supportive of equal opportunity and respecting social and cultural diversity.

These procedures are designed for the resolution of grievances associated with unfair and/or unlawful discrimination and harassment. 

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8.5.2 Application

These procedures apply to complaints about discrimination and harassment made by, or about, staff or students, where the conduct allegedly occurred while they were undertaking any activity in their capacity as a QUT student or staff member (on or off campus).

These procedures do not apply to conflict with other organisations, or with people other than students, employees or agents of the University. However, if the grievance arises from a QUT context (for example, harassment at a public function on a QUT campus) or during a QUT-related activity (for example discrimination against a student in a work placement), the person affected will be assisted to access the appropriate complaint mechanism and be provided with support.

If the alleged behaviour might constitute a criminal offence, the affected person will be advised of their options and assisted to make a complaint to the police if they wish.

Except in special circumstances, a complaint will not be accepted if more than nine months have elapsed since the last alleged incident of discrimination or harassment.

The University has the right to determine under which of its procedures a complaint will be handled. If it is determined that a complaint lodged under this policy is to be managed under a different policy, the complainant will be advised.

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8.5.3 Roles and responsibilities

Position
Responsibility

Equity Director

  • in consultation with relevant officers determines which policy/procedure applies to a discrimination related grievance if the matter may invoke more than one policy/procedure
  • if the alleged actions or behaviours may amount to misconduct or serious misconduct refers the matter for consideration under the relevant misconduct/serious misconduct procedures
  • advises the Registrar of any matter which may invoke the policy relating to Public interest disclosure management (B/8.3)
  • determines if a grievance lodged more than 9 months after the alleged events occurred should be accepted at Level 1 and 2
  • advises the Vice-Chancellor on whether a complaint lodged more than 9 months after the alleged events occurred should be accepted at Level 3

Managers and Supervisors

  • manage resolution of grievances according to their designated responsibility, as outlined in these procedures (A/ 8.5.6)
Discrimination Contact Officer
  • provides support and information to any party or person who is involved in the grievance process

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8.5.4 Choices for persons alleging discrimination or harassment

Any person who believes that they have been discriminated against or harassed may choose to do any of the following:

  • discuss the matter with the person they feel is discriminating against or harassing them in an attempt to resolve it constructively, although there is no onus on staff or students to do this before using these procedures
  • resolve the grievance using these procedures (as outlined in section 8.5.6 below)
  • lodge a complaint with the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission or Australian Human Rights Commission, in which case the University will cooperate with the relevant Commission in having the matter resolved, but these procedures will have no further application
  • pursue a complaint with the assistance of the relevant staff union or the QUT Student Guild.

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8.5.5 Discrimination Contact Officers

Discrimination Contact Officers are located on each campus and are trained to provide information about discrimination and harassment. These officers are volunteer staff members who have been formally trained for their role and appointed by the Registrar. A list of Discrimination Contact Officers is available on the Equity Services website (QUT staff access only).

A Discrimination Contact Officer can:

  • assist in clarifying the situation and exploring options for resolution
  • provide information about grievance resolution procedures (internal and external)
  • discuss the possibility of resolving the grievance directly between the parties involved
  • provide information about, and facilitate access to, appropriate support services
  • provide advice and assurance about confidentiality
  • inform the Equity Director (or nominee) of progress.

A Discrimination Contact Officer does not conciliate or investigate a complaint, or act as an advocate for any person involved in the grievance.

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8.5.6 Other considerations

Natural justice

The principles of natural justice and procedural fairness will be observed. All persons are to be treated with respect and impartiality and provided with support at all stages of the process.

Timely resolution

The grievance resolution process will be conducted as expeditiously as possible and in accordance with the agreed timeframe specified within each procedure. Timeframes may vary as appropriate to the nature and complexity of the grievance and availability of all people concerned.  All parties are to be kept informed of progress in a timely manner.

Requirement to participate at each level

Staff or students involved in the grievance must participate in good faith at each level of these procedures. The Vice-Chancellor will not accept a complaint under the third level of these procedures unless those in conflict have attempted to resolve the matter through conciliation, as outlined at the first and second levels. Conciliation processes at levels one and two will take account of the needs of the persons involved, and will seek to minimise any stress or anxiety for participants.

External avenues

At any stage, the complainant may lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission. If the complainant is already involved with QUT's internal grievance resolution procedures they must notify the Equity Director who will advise the other parties involved that the matter will now be dealt with externally.

Support and representation

Throughout this process, any person involved in the grievance may request the assistance of the Equity Director, or a Discrimination Contact Officer, and/or request the assignment by the Equity Director of a support person such as someone familiar with cultural and/or social issues relating to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, or someone with cross-cultural communication skills.

Any person may be supported, and accompanied at any point in the process, by a person of their choice (for example, a friend, colleague, Discrimination Contact Officer, or person from the Oodgeroo Unit, International Student Services, relevant staff union, or QUT Student Guild.

Support persons cannot act as advocates, and exclude those who are currently practising as a solicitor or barrister.

Victimisation

Disciplinary action can be taken against any person who victimises another person because of their involvement in these grievance resolution procedures, or because of their support of a complainant or respondent.

Such victimisation could include, for example, harassing or bullying the complainant or respondent, or making overt or implied threats about a person's academic or career progress.

Confidentiality and defamation

Confidentiality will be respected and maintained within the constraints of the need to fully investigate the matter, subject to any legal requirements for disclosure and consistent with the principles of natural justice.

Provided that University procedures are followed and the persons involved act in accordance with their duties and in good faith, staff are indemnified by the University against any loss or damage incurred by a relevant legal action taken against them. Seeking information from a supervisor or Discrimination Contact Officer about alleged behaviour, or lodging a complaint about such behaviour, would not normally constitute defamation. However, conveying information about a complaint to anyone who does not have a genuine need to know may open up the possibility of being sued for defamation.

Frivolous and vexatious complaints

The University may take action against frivolous and vexatious complaints. Any person found to have made such a complaint may be subject to misconduct procedures. A complaint made in good faith is not a vexatious complaint even if the complaint is not eventually substantiated.

Misconduct

Where the alleged actions or behaviours may amount to misconduct or serious misconduct the matter must be referred by the Equity Director for consideration under the relevant misconduct/serious misconduct procedures for staff or students.

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8.5.7 Three level grievance resolution process

First level - Approaching the supervisor for early conciliation

(i) Staff or students with grievances should raise the matter with an appropriate supervisor or request a Discrimination Contact Officer to do this on their behalf. Students should approach their head of school. Staff members should approach either their supervisor or the supervisor of the other person involved in the grievance.

(ii) The supervisor may use a range of strategies to conciliate the grievance including:

  • seeking the assistance of another appropriate supervisor in resolving the grievance
  • seeking advice and assistance from the Equity Director or a Discrimination Contact Officer or involving them in conciliation meetings
  • requesting the Equity Director to assign a support person to assist in clarifying the grievance and/or to assist in conciliation
  • conducting separate interviews with the persons involved in the grievance and conveying information from one party to the other
  • where appropriate, conducting a joint meeting with the persons involved in the grievance, taking into account the needs and wishes of the persons involved
  • providing parties with written advice of the outcomes.

(iii) This level must be commenced within 5 working days of the supervisor being notified of the grievance. The Equity Director must be notified if the 5 working days is exceeded.

(iv) If the grievance is resolved at this stage, the supervisor will follow up two months later, and at other times if necessary, with the complainant to ensure that there has been no further conflict.

Second level - Investigation and further conciliation

(i) Where the conflict has not been resolved at the first level, the complainant may refer (or ask the Discrimination Contact Officer to refer) the matter to the relevant executive dean of faculty or head of division.

(ii) The executive dean of faculty or head of division will immediately notify the Equity Director of the details of the grievance and who is involved. The executive dean of faculty or head of division will discuss the matter with the Equity Director who will give formal advice about an appropriate course of action.

(iii) After consulting with the Equity Director, the executive dean of faculty or head of division may do any of the following to resolve the grievance:

  • consider all relevant matters including other complaints
  • make further enquiries
  • request the Equity Director to assign a support person to assist in clarifying the nature of the grievance and/or to assist in conciliation, for example an Indigenous person
  • where appropriate, delegate the matter to a lower level manager in the faculty or division
  • appoint a trained person to conduct conciliation through separate interviews or a joint meeting with the persons involved. The Equity Director will advise the executive dean of faculty or head of division on an appropriate conciliator. This person may be a University officer or an external conciliator, depending on the circumstances of the case
  • conduct an investigation, or appoint a trained person to do so on their behalf, on advice of the Equity Director
  • assess the validity of information
  • with the agreement of the persons involved in the grievance, implement action to resolve the grievance
  • make findings and take decisions within their delegated authority
  • refer the matter to the Vice-Chancellor
  • provide parties with written advice of the outcomes.

(iv) This level should be commenced within 10 working days. The executive dean of faculty or head of division must immediately notify the Equity Director of the outcome.

(v) If the grievance is resolved at this stage, the executive dean of faculty or head of division will follow up two months later, or at other times if necessary, with the complainant to ensure that there has been no further conflict.

Third level - Formal investigation by the Vice-Chancellor

(i) If the grievance is not resolved at the second level, the complainant may lodge a written complaint with the Vice-Chancellor requesting a formal investigation.

(ii) On receiving a written complaint, the Vice-Chancellor will constitute a panel, on advice from the Registrar, to investigate the complaint.

(iii) The panel shall consist of:

  • an independent chair (external to the University and the governing body)
  • two persons from the University staff or student body, nominated by the Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the relevant union/s or QUT Student Guild.

(iv) The panel will include more than one gender. Where necessary, the Vice-Chancellor may co-opt a specialist adviser to assist the panel, such as someone with knowledge of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultures, cultural diversity, sexuality or disability issues.

(v) The role of the panel is to conduct a thorough investigation into the complaint to provide advice to the Vice-Chancellor on whether or not the complaint is substantiated.

(vi) In carrying out its task, the panel should:

  • interview the complainant
  • interview the respondent
  • interview all relevant witnesses
  • interview any other University officer involved at levels one and two
  • respect the fact that support persons such as the Discrimination Contact Officers and the Equity Director or Equity staff will not be able to reveal confidential information without the permission of the person they are supporting
  • request a report from the executive dean of faculty or head of division about any investigations conducted at level two
  • review any other relevant documents
  • consider the complaint in the context of QUT policy and relevant legislation
  • seek advice from any person it deems appropriate
  • give the complainant and the respondent an opportunity to respond to all relevant information gathered
  • make a finding, on the balance of probabilities, on whether the complaint is substantiated, and whether there are any mitigating circumstances.

(vii) The panel will report its findings to the Vice-Chancellor who will determine appropriate action and provide the parties with written advice of the outcomes.

(viii) With respect to these procedures, the Vice-Chancellor's determination will be final.

(ix) The third level must be completed as expeditiously as possible.

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8.5.8 Definitions

Discrimination means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference within QUT's study and work environment which is based upon a person's sex; marital status; pregnancy; breastfeeding; race (including colour, descent, ethnic origin and nationality); age; parental status; physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment or disability; religious belief; lawful sexual activity or sexual orientation; trade union activity; criminal record; social origin; medical record; political belief or activity; or any other factor that is irrelevant to a person's ability to work, or study or access services at QUT. Queensland and federal anti-discrimination laws include most of these grounds.

Discrimination may be on the basis of actual attributes, such as a person's appearance, racial background or accent. Discrimination may also be on the basis of assumptions about a person, for example, because of one of their attributes. As an example, a person with a disability may not be invited to a work-related social function or sporting event because it is assumed that someone with a disability would not want to attend. Discrimination may be direct or indirect, as defined by anti-discrimination legislation.

Harassment is a form of discrimination. It refers to offensive behaviour and it may be based on one of the grounds referred to above, or may be motivated by other factors. Harassment can take many forms and can range from the subtle to the obvious. It may occur on one occasion or be a part of a pattern.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • making denigrating oral, written or e-mail comments, name-calling, or jokes; displaying or distributing denigrating written or pictorial material, graffiti, clothing or badges; threatening, bullying, intimidating or excluding a person because of their gender, race, culture, disability, or sexuality, for example
  • expressing stereotypes, that is assumptions about a person, because of, for example, their gender, race, culture, disability, or sexuality
  • using University facilities to recruit students or staff to organisations or groups which advocate unlawful discrimination or harassment
  • downloading hate sites, pornography or offensive screensavers from the internet
  • advocating or inciting hatred towards, physical attacks upon, or discrimination against people (because of, for example, their gender, race, culture, disability or sexuality).

Sexual harassment is unlawful behaviour (in any time and at any location) under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) and includes:

  • stares, leers or offensive hand or body gestures
  • comments or questions about a person's sexual conduct and/or private relationships or persistent unwelcome invitations
  • requests for sexual favours or unwelcome physical conduct such as brushing against or touching a person
  • sexual assault or rape.

Harassment on the basis of disability, racial hatred and/or vilification, and religious vilification are all forms of unlawful conduct prohibited by Commonwealth and State laws.

Parties to a complaint include the complainant (the aggrieved person who was allegedly subjected to discrimination or harassment), the respondent (the person or organisation about whom the complaint is made), and/or the supervisor (normally the immediate supervisor/manager for staff or the head of school for students).

Conciliation is the process of resolving a complaint through the parties involved agreeing to a resolution. A conciliator is an independent person who assists the parties to reach agreement.

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Related Documents

MOPP B/8.1 QUT Staff Code of Conduct

MOPP B/8.3 Public interest disclosure management

MOPP B/8.5 Disciplinary action for misconduct and serious misconduct - senior staff

MOPP B/8.7 Conflict of interest

MOPP B/10.1 Staff complaints

MOPP D/5.1 Management of higher degree research courses

MOPP E/2.1 QUT Student Code of Conduct

MOPP E/8.1 Management of student misconduct

MOPP E/9.1 Review of grades and academic rulings

MOPP E/9.2 Grievance resolution procedures for student related grievances

MOPP E/9.3 Student Ombudsman

MOPP F/3.2 Social media

MOPP F/6.1 Records management

MOPP F/6.2 Information privacy

Protocol - Responding to student disclosures of sexual harassment and assault (QUT staff access only)

Disciplinary action - Clause 45 Enterprise Agreement (Academic Staff),Clause 50 Enterprise Agreement (Professional Staff)

National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007

Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015

Higher Education Provider Guidelines 2012 issued under the Higher Education Support Act 2003

Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld)

Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000

Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

Ombudsman Act 2001 (Qld)

Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth)

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Modification History

Date Sections Source Details
19.04.18 All Vice-Chancellor Revised and simplified policy
29.11.07 All Vice-Chancellor Procedures renumbered to A/8.5 (formerly A/8.11) as part of revised policy framework for social justice (endorsed by Equity Board 23.08.07)
14.06.02 All Vice-Chancellor Approved new procedures

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