Sometimes a complaint of discrimination or sexual harassment cannot be resolved through an organisation’s internal procedures. Whether you are an employer or an employee, can contact us at any stage for free and confidential information about your rights and responsibilities. We offer a free, fair and timely dispute resolution service if someone decides to make a complaint to the Commission.
An employee can lodge a complaint with the Commission at any time, regardless of other options that may have already been attempted to resolve a matter within their workplace.
The role of the Commission
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has a responsibility under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 to attempt to resolve complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment.
The Commission is not a tribunal or a court of law. We do not prosecute, make decisions or award compensation. Our job is to help people resolve complaints by mutual agreement.
When a complaint is lodged with the Commission, we will contact everyone involved to give them an opportunity to have their say.
The Commission will appoint an officer to gather relevant information. The officer does not take sides or act on anyone’s behalf. In some cases the officer may visit the site where the discrimination was alleged to have occurred and interview any witnesses.
The complaint may be declined if it is not supported by enough information. However, if there is evidence to support the allegations the Commission will attempt to resolve the complaint through conciliation.
Responding to a complaint
If you are a respondent to the complaint, the officer will provide you with details of the complaint and discuss the matter with you. Depending on the circumstances, you may be asked to:
- provide information over the phone, or
- send a written response to the allegations raised in the complaint.
You do not have to have legal advice to respond to a complaint, although you may choose to do so. You may also seek advice from other organisations, such as an industry or employer group.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that an employee is not victimised – or treated unfairly – for making a complaint or supporting another person’s complaint.
You may also need to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable precautions to prevent discrimination or sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace.
Conciliation is a process that brings the parties together to talk about the issues raised in the complaint, give their point of view and come up with solutions that are appropriate to the situation.
A conciliation conference is informal and private. The Commission acts as an impartial third party during the discussion. Our role is to:
- assist people to consider different options to resolve the complaint
- provide information about possible terms of settlement.
There is generally no need for legal representation. However, parties may request that a lawyer, advocate or support person attend the conciliation conference with them.
Many complaints are successfully resolved through conciliation. Outcomes will vary according to the nature of the complaint but may include:
- an apology (verbal or written, private or more public)
- financial compensation
- a job reference or reinstatement to a job
- access to a previously denied job opportunity
- an agreement to change or stop certain behaviour
- an agreement to implement an equal opportunity policy or take part in equal opportunity training.
If the complaint cannot be resolved through conciliation, it may be heard in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
If you need further assistance, contact the Commission for advice. Employer organisations or industry associations may also be able to provide support.