For managers

Managers and supervisors have a duty of care to prevent and eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This extends to all aspects of managing staff, including:

  • recruitment
  • selection and appointment
  • promotion.

Staff have a duty of care to make sure their actions don't adversely affect the health and safety of others who are on Charles Sturt's premises or engaged in University-related activities.

Legal liability

Anti-discrimination laws set out 3 types of liability for unlawful harassment and discrimination.

Vicarious liability

An employer is legally responsible for the unlawful actions of employees. Vicarious liability may be reduced if an organisation takes all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.

Accessory liability

This can apply where an individual or organisation was aware that unlawful discrimination or harassment was occurring but failed to take any steps to prevent it. In some cases, this is referred to as 'wilful blindness'.

Personal liability

Individuals can be held legally responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, and can have amounts awarded against them in court and tribunal hearings. This can occur even where the employing organisation has successfully made out the defence of having taken 'all reasonable steps'.

What you can do about it

  • Make sure all new staff members are properly inducted in the Code of Conduct and relevant policies.
  • If the bullying behaviour doesn't stop or if the allegation is serious, make a formal complaint to the Division of People and Culture (staff and students) or Head of Campus (students) for investigation.
  • Evaluate staff behaviour as well as the achievement of outcomes in performance reviews.
  • Do not ignore bullying or wait until a complaint is made to take action.
  • Check Charles Sturt's Harassment and Bullying Prevention Policy and Guidelines.
  • Check the facts and decide whether you need to investigate further.
  • If appropriate, try to resolve the matter informally first.
  • If further investigation is needed, seek advice from the Division of People and Culture.
  • Depending on the outcomes of the assessment or investigation, a performance improvement plan may be developed. For more serious matters, misconduct or serious misconduct proceedings may be started.
  • Encourage the person being bullied to contact the Employee Assistance Program (staff) or Student Counsellor (students) for professional support.
  • Ensure protection is provided against victimisation (i.e. retaliation for making a complaint).
  • Monitor and review the bully's behaviour in accordance with the performance improvement plan.


Penalties for breaching duty of care vary, depending on the degree of harm that results. These include, but are not limited to, fines and jail time for individuals and organisations.