Harassment / Sexual Harassment and Bullying Complaints Procedure

Harassment / Sexual Harassment and Bullying Complaints Procedure

Harassment/Sexual Harassment and Workplace Violence

This section covers Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Workplace Violence and Bullying and needs to be read in conjunction with our Fair Treatment Policy.
Harassment takes place when someone directs one or more specified acts at another person (this includes watching, loitering, following, accosting, interfering with another person’s property or acting in ways that cause the person to fear for their safety.)

Harassment has the potential to cause humiliation, offence or intimidation. It is usually repeated but even one instance may cause reasonable concern. Certain types of harassment are considered criminal offences under the Harassment Act 1997.

Sexual harassment is an unacceptable and unlawful form of behaviour.  This includes any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature including physical, verbal, visual or written regardless of any “innocent intent” on the part of the offender.  If the behaviour makes a reasonable person feel offended, humiliated, intimidated or frightened then it is against our company policy and the law.

All complaints of sexual harassment will be fully investigated.  Sexual harassment is deemed serious misconduct and may result in dismissal without notice.

Workplace violence is verbal (abuse, threats shouting, swearing) or physical (stalking, throwing objects, hitting, damage to property) Workplace violence is illegal and will be referred to the police. In addition to being a criminal act, workplace violence is deemed serious misconduct and will result in dismissal without notice.


Bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety. Repeated behaviour is persistent and can involve a range of actions over time. Unreasonable behaviour means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. A single incident of unreasonable behaviour is not considered workplace bullying.

Examples of potential bullying behaviour
    • Ignoring – excluding – silent treatment – isolating
    • Attacking a person’s beliefs, attitude, lifestyle or appearance – gender references – accusations of being mentally disturbed
    • Ridiculing – insulting – teasing – jokes – ‘funny surprises’ – sarcasm
    • Shouted or yelled at
    • Threats of violence
    • Insulting comments about private life
    • Physical attacks
    • Public humiliation
    • Persistent and/or public criticism
    • Using obscene or offensive language, gestures, material
    • Ganging up – colleagues/clients encouraged to criticise you or spy on you – witch hunt – dirty tricks campaign – singled out
    • Intimidation – acting in a condescending manner
    • Intruding on privacy, eg spying, stalking, harassed by calls when on leave or at weekends
    • Unwanted sexual approaches, offers, or physical contact
    • Verbal abuse
    • Inaccurate accusation
    • Suggestive glances, gestures, or dirty looks
    • Tampering with personal effects – theft –destruction of property
    • ncouraged to feel guilty
    • Sabotage or scapegoating
    • Reducing opportunities for expression –interrupting when speaking.
Examples of behaviour that generally is not bullying behaviour
    • One off or occasional instances of forgetfulness, rudeness or tactlessness
    • Setting high performance standards because of quality, safety or legal requirement
    • Constructive feedback and legitimate advice or peer review
    • A manager requiring reasonable verbal or written work instructions to be carried out
    • Warning or disciplining employees in line with the workplaces code of conduct
    • A single incident of unreasonable behavior.
Option A - Complainant approaches alleged offender directly
If you are approached by an employee claiming harassment and you think it is appropriate you might suggest that employee initially makes a direct, informal approach to the ‘offender’. The employee may request, either in person or in writing, that the offender stop the offensive behaviour. If the outcome is not successful then discuss with the complainant whether an Informal intervention whereby you or another manager becomes involved directly with the parties or the laying of a formal complaint for investigation by the company is the best way to proceed.
Option B - Informal Intervention/In-House Mediation

This step is intended to be available as an option for the concerned employee to provide a faster, less formal solution agreeable to all parties. However, if we consider any conduct or alleged behaviour potentially breaches the Code of Conduct or our standards of behaviour in employment, a more formal process and investigation into the alleged conduct should be initiated.

Observe these guidelines when the employee with the harassment concern requests in-house mediation.

        • A manager acceptable to the employee who has raised the matter should perform the in-house mediation.
        • The manager dealing with the matter must establish in clear, descriptive terms the behaviour the employee wants stopped, and/or the action the employee feels is required in order for them to function effectively at work. nsure that the employee understands that the complaint cannot remain anonymous. Natural justice requires that an accused person has the right to know the name of the complainant.
        • The manager should approach the other party to advise that a concern has been raised about their behaviour. xplain that this conduct is having a detrimental affect on another employee’s work performance. xplain to the alleged offender exactly what it is that they are alleged to have done. The manager should advise that the company has no position on the complaint and does not intend to conduct a formal investigation at this point in time unless a formal complaint is laid at a later date or if they believe the allegations warrant formal investigation. xplain that the company’s desire is simply to achieve an agreement between the parties as to what behaviour is acceptable.
        • Having stated the requirements of the employee who raised the matter, the manager should ask the other party’s response in clear, descriptive terms. Find out if the alleged offender is willing to attend a meeting to resolve the situation.
        • The manager should then convene a meeting of both parties and attempt to find an agreeable solution. This may require the manager to put up options or proposals as the basis for an acceptable settlement.
        • If an agreed solution is not possible through in-house mediation, the matter should be put back in the hands of the employee who first raised the issue so that they can consider the possibility of a formal complaint.
Option C - Lodging a Formal Complaint
          • If the informal in-house mediation fails, or the employee with the harassment concern decides to make a formal complaint, or where we consider it inappropriate to treat the matter informally, an independent and mutually acceptable person if possible, should be arranged to conduct an impartial investigation.
          • Advise the complainant that a full investigation will be made promptly, confidentially and impartially. Advise the alleged offender of the name of the complainant and the exact nature of the complaint against them.
          • During the investigation and any associated interviews, always give both the complainant and any employee facing a complaint the opportunity to have a support person present as a witness.
Investigator’s recommendations

Where the attempt to produce a settlement on mutually agreed terms is unsuccessful, the investigator must make recommendations to the parties on actions necessary to resolve the complaint.

Recommended actions should include solutions for the harassed person and recommendations on disciplinary action for the offender.

Providing both parties with a copy of the report and seeking their feedback prior to meeting with the parties may be beneficial in resolving the matter.

Remedies for the harassed person may include:

  • Apology from the offender.
  • Written assurance from the company that steps will be taken to rectify the situation.
  • Payment of medical or counselling fees associated with stress.
  • Removing detrimental comments on work performance during the period of harassment out of personal file.
  • Transfer out of the environment where the incident occurred, but with no job disadvantage.
  • Special leave on pay for specified period.

These options are suggestions only and other solutions may be more appropriate.

  • Disciplinary options for the offender include:
  • Apology to the complainant.
  • Closer supervision of conduct.
  • Counselling on misconduct.
  • Formal disciplinary action.
  • Transfer to another position, but with no job advantage.
  • Downgrading of job status and responsibilities
  • Dismissal, where justified
Recommendation accepted

If the investigator’s recommendations is accepted by the parties:

  • Appropriate counselling, retraining or disciplinary action should be taken to prevent the unacceptable behaviour from recurring.
  • In any disciplinary action, confirm with the offender, in writing, that their behaviour was unacceptable and advise what the consequences will be should it happen again. Place a copy of that advice in their personal file.
  • Follow up to ensure that the unacceptable behaviour has in fact, stopped and that the solution is working satisfactorily. Put a formal monitoring program in place to ensure that there is no reoccurrence and that the parties have resumed a normal working relationship.
  • Maintain contact with the complainant to ensure that they are not victimised in any way by having made the complaint.

Continue to step 9

If the recommendation is not accepted:

Where the complainant does not accept the recommendations of the investigator, they are entitled to refer the matter to either:

  • The Human Rights Commission, or
  • The Personal Grievance Provisions of the Employment Relations Act.

Where the employer does not accept the recommendations of the investigator, it must advise its position in writing to the complainant setting out its reasons for rejecting the investigator’s recommendations and also setting out a counter-proposal for settling the matter (if any).

If the complainant and the Company cannot settle the matter the complainant is entitled to refer the complaint to either:

  • The Human Rights Commission, or
  • The Personal Grievance Provisions of the Employment Relations Act
Option Legal action

Where the complainant rejects the investigator’s finding that the complaint is not substantiated (Step Five); or

Where the complainant rejects the investigator’s recommendations (Step Seven); or

Where the complainant rejects the company’s counter-proposal for settling the matter (Step Seven), the complainant is entitled to refer the matter to:

  • The Human Rights Commission, or
  • The Person Grievance Provisions of the Employment Relations Act.