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Workplace discrimination

The Department of Health is committed to the provision of a workplace that is free from discrimination.

Every employee has the right to a safe, secure and supportive workplace.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably in certain areas of public life, including work related areas, because of a personal characteristic or attribute. It can be direct or indirect.

Direct discrimination

Is any action which specifically excludes an individual or group of people from a benefit or opportunity, or reduces their chances of obtaining it, because of personal characteristics irrelevant to the situation.

For example:

  • not renewing a contract because someone is pregnant, where otherwise it would have been extended
  • not employing someone because they are over a certain age
  • not employing people in wheelchair.

Indirect discrimination

Any outcome of rules, practice and decisions which purport to treat people equally and therefore appear to be neutral, but which are unreasonable and reduce an individual's chances of obtaining a benefit or opportunity. 

For example:

  • height and weight requirements for candidates for a role which are irrelevant.

What is not discrimination?

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 allows for some exemptions to the prohibition of discrimination, (e.g. for genuine occupation requirements) and is also relevant to discrimination in other areas of public life.

Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 prohibits discrimination on the basis of:

  • sex
  • relationship status
  • pregnancy, breastfeeding
  • parental status, family responsibilities
  • age
  • race
  • impairment
  • religious belief or religious activity
  • political belief or activity
  • trade union activity
  • lawful sexual activity
  • gender identity, sexuality
  • association with, or relation to, a person identified.

Who can be subjected to discrimination?

Both men and women can be the subjects of discrimination.


Employees have an obligation to create and maintain an ethical, professional and productive work culture by carefully considering their own behaviour and its potential impact on others.

Employees should:

  • understand what discrimination is in the workplace
  • not engage in or encourage other employees in such behaviour
  • report such behaviour
  • understand and comply with relevant policies.

Supervisors/managers should:

  • understand and be familiar with relevant policies
  • model and uphold acceptable behaviour and professional standards of conduct in the workplace 
  • monitor the workplace for signs of workplace discrimination and promptly address such behaviour
  • take reasonable steps to promote relevant policy and educate employees about appropriate and acceptable workplace behaviour
  • identify and set expectations in relation to appropriate workplace behaviour and respond to complaints promptly, fairly and objectively
  • treat all allegations seriously and sensitively, and take appropriate action.

The Department of Health will:

  • model appropriate behaviour and professional standards of conduct in the workplace
  • provide leadership (and appropriate resources) on the implementation of awareness initiatives which promote a workplace free from discrimination
  • ensure compliance with legislative obligations
  • ensure the principles which promote a workplace free from discrimination are integrated into every day management practices.


The department promotes an early intervention approach for resolving complaints.


If you think you are being subjected to such behaviour, you may consider whether it is appropriate to address the issue informally in the first instance. You can do this by:

  • speaking with the person who is engaging in such behaviour
  • respectfully letting them know how their behaviour is making you feel
  • asking them to stop.

While it is not an excuse, some people are unaware of how their behaviour makes others feel and will cease immediately once they become aware of it.


If informal attempts to address such behaviour are unsuccessful, you may:

  • talk to your manager (or a director if your manager is the person engaging in such behaviour).
  • lodge a formal complaint in accordance with relevant HR Policy.

Where concerns are raised about unlawful discrimination and vilification, a manager has an obligation to take appropriate action. If an employee asks that no action be taken, a manager is still required to consider the nature and seriousness of the alleged conduct in determining whether action is taken.

Unlawful discrimination or vilification (PDF, 144kB) may constitute suspected corrupt conduct and may need to be reported in accordance with relevant HR Policy.


A number of possible options may be employed by management to resolve your complaint, including, but not limited to, mediation, conciliation, discussions with parties to the complaint, formal investigations or no further action.

The decision maker may also determine what further action, if any, is required which may include, but is not limited to, training, managerial action, counselling, policy/process review or disciplinary action (including termination of employment).

The department's management action will be exclusive of other legal or criminal penalties that may apply.

Last updated: 1 July 2015

Further information and support

  • speak with yourline manager
  • get support fromyour local HR team
  • access the Employee Assistance Service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out which service provider is available to your Hospital and Health Service and Department of Health.