Human Rights Commission powerless in public sector and workcover matters


We recently received correspondence a bullied, harassed and ill-treated injured worker sent to the Human Rights Commission. The response the injured worker received was very disappointing. It appears Human Rights are available to anyone who doesn’t work in the public sector or have a workcover claim. Thanks to the injured worker, we know have this in writing!

Human Rights Commission powerless in public sector and workcover matters

The injured worker wrote to the Human rights Commission regarding a Bullying inquiry using the Commission’s email address:

The injured worker basically described that they are working in a public hospital and are currently experiencing bullying and harassment [describing the actual bullying and harassment “events”] and also explained that they suffered a workplace injury and that their return to work programs were ignored and/or changed [without approval].

Response from the Human Rights Commission

Dear [injured worker]

I refer to your email sent on [date] 2013, regarding your employment.

You say you are a [censored] working in a public hospital and are experiencing bullying and harassment.
[statements of injured worker’s allegations of bullying/harassment].

Our laws

The Australian Human Rights Commission has the power to investigate and conciliate complaints about:

  • discrimination because of a person’s race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibilities, age or disability as well as sexual harassment in specific areas of public life, such as, employment, education, providing you with goods and services and accommodation;
  • racial hatred that takes place in public;
  • discrimination in employment because of a person’s criminal record, sexual preference, trade union activity, religion, political opinion or social origin; or
  • breaches of human rights by the Commonwealth of Australia only. This Commission’s human rights provisions do not cover human rights breaches related to state or local government bodies or private organisations.

Disability discrimination

The Commission can consider claims of disability discrimination in employment as defined under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (the DDA). The definition of disability is very broad and can include temporary or permanent illnesses, an injury, medical condition or impairment.

Under the DDA, an employer is required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability. However it is not considered unlawful discrimination under the DDA if such accommodation would impose unjustifiable hardship on the employer or if the employee is not able to perform the inherent requirements of the job because of their disability, despite certain adjustments being made.

If you feel you have been discriminated against by your employer because of your disability/s or that your disability/s have not been reasonably accommodated for by the employer, then it may be open for you to pursue a complaint with the Commission

If you wish to do so, please fill out our online complaint form which can be found on our website at and include details of the alleged ground/s, the alleged conduct and why you believe that you were treated this way because of this ground/s.

Please be aware the Commission is unable to assist if the alleged bullying and harassment is not connected to one or more of the grounds listed above. For information about workplace bullying, please see our website at:


If your concerns relate to general bullying and harassment in the workplace, it may be better dealt with as a workplace health and safety issue. You may wish to contact Workplace Health and Safety Authority in your state or territory, you can find details at:

Regarding issues related to pay and entitlements, you may wish to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or you can visit their website at

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has an advice line about workplace issues. You can contact the ACTU on 1300 362 223.

You may wish to seek free legal advice from Legal Aid or a community legal centre ( to discuss your options.

Complaint Information Service

Australian Human Rights Commission


5 Responses to “Human Rights Commission powerless in public sector and workcover matters”

  1. I went to Worksafe Victoria because I was being bullied in the workplace (because it was a health and safety matter). I had a diary, witnesses, and an accepted WorkSafe claim for the resulting injury.

    Apparently it is too hard to prosecute “psychological” bullying.

    Human rights wont help, WorkSafe wont help.

    Laws are only as good as the people who enforce them.

    • and ironically enough, 12 months after I made the complaint another member in my team suffered a complete nervous breakdown

    • M, they want us to believe that it’s our fault for being bullied and injured!

      I’ve had similar issue, all details and dates taken and reported to Worksafe, they never acted, I was having my suicidal thoughts so I couldn’t pursue it. The workplace I’m complaining to was “well” known to Worksafe since they “regularly” came for inspections over bullying, harassment, safety and alcohol and drugs issues, they told to my “ex” shark Lawyer that they did not investigate my claim because I made no complaint. The shark Lawyer just took Worksafe’s explanation as good and didn’t bother to complain further!

      Worksafe have no excuses, once you report dates, events and facts they must investigate and if they don’t, that means they are corrupted!

  2. It’s so comforting to know that a murderer or a child molestor thats just been released from prision has greater access to human rights than a person whose on workcover. As long as they don’t get employment in the public sector. I’m beginning to wonder if this fair work commission for bullying and harassment is going to fit nicely into this eternal runaround, pass the buck justice system. At least we know there will be no compensation for the working class.

  3. In the past I had the same bad feedback form the commission, in my case they simply answered that there was NOTHING they could do and without explaining the reason or any finding that could support their answer.

    It seems to me that Government offices’ workers have instructions to divert or dismiss complaints to avoid doing the job they were supposed to do, I’m pretty sure they divert complaint to different bodies then you’re dismissed over and over.

    To support my theory just look at the above complicated and intentionally confusing guidelines from the commission then you make your own judgement.