When is victimisation unlawful?

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The Commission often gets asked by potential complainants; if they make a complaint about an organisation or person, will they be informed they were the complainant?
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Dr Byrne in front of Equal sign

If a complaint is made and accepted for investigation, then the answer is yes. The complaint process is an impartial process based on the principles of natural justice, so respondents need to be given the right of response to complaints being made against them.
Usually the next question is, but what if they treat me badly as payback for making a complaint?
Concerns include demotion, bullying or termination of work, loss of accommodation or denial of access to goods and services, places, or education.
If a person has made a complaint either to the Commission, or directly to the person or organisation, and believes they have been treated badly because of it, under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act) this could be victimisation, which under the Act is unlawful.
Traditionally victimisation complaints are quite high in comparison to other grounds because they are often in addition to a discrimination or harassment complaint.
In the 2022-23 financial year victimisation complaints were the third highest reason for making a complaint and accounted for 10.7 percent of all complaints finalised by the Commission.
One complainant who had alleged discrimination in his workplace because he believed he was not being given training and promotion opportunities because of his race, also alleged victimisation, claiming his shifts were cancelled and requests to change his shifts to sit university exams were ignored after he made his race discrimination complaint.
A gay Aboriginal man on a work trip from Melbourne alleged race and sexual orientation discrimination when he complained to the hotel about his room and felt he was being treated less favourably than non-gay, non-Aboriginal guests.  When he complained to the hotel, he alleged victimisation as the hotel manager was abusive and banned him from the venue’s pub and performance area.
A woman complained she was sexually harassed by her male co-worker, and when she complained to management, she received notification she was to commence at a new work site. The woman resigned.
These are all examples of victimisation under the Act.
However, another complainant receiving care felt he had been victimised by his carers as he made several complaints about his care to many bodies and, while he had made several complaints internally and externally, none were about discrimination under the Act. Therefore, victimisation under the Act could not be found and the complaint was dismissed as misconceived.
Victimisation is a beneficial provision which gives complainants some confidence to disclose their grievances about unlawful discrimination and harassment with some protection under the Act.
However, it is important to note the complainant must demonstrate detrimental treatment because they have complained about discrimination or harassment for victimisation to be found.