Manual of Policies and Procedures

A/8.5 Grievance resolution procedures for discrimination related grievances

Contact Officer

Equity Director

Approval Date

29/11/2007

Approval Authority

Vice-Chancellor

Date of Next Review

01/12/2010

8.5.1 Principles
8.5.2 Application
8.5.3 Definitions
8.5.4 Choices for persons alleging discrimination or harassment
8.5.5 Discrimination Contact Officers
8.5.6 Procedures
Related Documents
Modification History

8.5.1 Principles

The University's policies on grievance resolution (B/10.1 Staff complaints, E/9.2 Grievance resolution procedures for student related grievances and A/8.5 Grievance resolution procedures for discrimination related grievances) outlines the University's commitment to ensuring 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) encodes the University'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

(a) These procedures apply to discrimination and harassment which can occur in staff / student or employer / employee relationships, or between peers (student / student or employee / employee) (see definitions below).

(b) These procedures apply to QUT activities both on and off campus.

(c) 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.

(d) Where the behaviour which gave rise to the grievance might constitute misconduct or serious misconduct.

(e) If the alleged behaviour might constitute a criminal offence, the affected person will be encouraged and assisted to make a complaint to the police.

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8.5.3 Definitions

Discrimination

(a) " 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.

(b) 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.

(c) Discrimination may be direct or indirect, as defined by anti-discrimination legislation.

(d) Affirmative action programs do not constitute unlawful or unfair discrimination. The University has such programs to assist various groups of people by removing barriers in employment and education which are the result of historical or existing disadvantage, harassment and discrimination. These programs are not inconsistent with anti-discrimination or human rights laws and, for some groups, are required by law and/or policy.

Harassment

(a) " 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 often occurs in, but is not restricted to, situations where there is a relationship of power and/or authority of one person over another. It may occur on one occasion or be a part of a pattern.

(b) Behaviour that some people may regard as harmless, trivial or a joke may be seen as harassment by others when it is offensive, humiliating, or distressing.

(c) 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 harassmen;
  • 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).

(d) Sexual harassment 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.

(e) The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) prohibits sexual harassment in any location and at any time.

(f) The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) prohibits harassment on the basis of disability, in the provision of employment, goods and services, and education.

(g) Both state and federal anti-discrimination laws specifically refer to racial hatred and/or vilification. The Anti-Discrimination Act also refers to religious vilification.

Parties to a complaint

(a) The "complainant" is the aggrieved person who was allegedly subjected to discrimination or harassment.

(b) The "respondent" is the person or organisation about whom the complaint is made.

(c) The "supervisor" is normally:

  • the immediate supervisor / manager for staff; or
  • the head of school for students.

Conciliation

(a) "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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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:

  • 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; or
  • resolve the grievance using these procedures (as outlined in section 8.5.6 below); or
  • 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; or
  • pursue a complaint through the relevant union or the QUT Student Guild.

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8.5.5 Discrimination Contact Officers

(a) Discrimination Contact Officers are located on each campus and are trained to provide information about discrimination and harassment. These officers are volunteer staff members and Student Guild officers 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.

(b) Discrimination Contact Officers provide support and information to any person who believes they have been discriminated against or harassed, or who believes they may be accused of such behaviour, or who is involved in the conflict situation in some other way, for example as a supervisor or witness.

(c) 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.

(d) 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 Procedures

There are three levels to the discrimination-related grievance resolution procedures consistent with the University's grievance resolution policy (A/6.1). The detailed procedures are described in sections (d), (e) and (f) below.

(a) 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 (see (d)(ii) below).

(b) 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.

(c) Support

(i) 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.

(ii) 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, GALNET, relevant union, or QUT Student Guild).

(iii) Support persons cannot act as advocates.

(d) 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.

(iii) This level must be completed within one week of the supervisor being notified of the grievance. The Equity Director must be notified if the one week period 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.

(e) 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.

(iv) This level should be completed within two weeks. 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.

(f) 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) Except in special circumstances, as determined by the Vice-Chancellor with advice from the Equity Director, a complaint will not be accepted if more than nine months have elapsed since the last alleged incident of discrimination or harassment.

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

(iv) 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.

(v) The panel will include at least one woman and one man. 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.

(vi) 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.

(vii) 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.

(viii) The panel will report its findings to the Vice-Chancellor who will determine appropriate action. With respect to these procedures, the Vice-Chancellor's determination will be final.

(ix) The third level must be completed within one month of the lodgement of a written complaint to the Vice-Chancellor.

(g) Victimisation

(i) 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.

(ii) 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.

(h) Confidentiality and defamation

(i) All care shall be taken to protect confidentiality.

(ii) 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.

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Related Documents

MOPP B/10.1 Staff complaints

MOPP E/9.2 Grievance resolution procedures for discrimination related grievances

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Modification History

Date Sections Source Details
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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