Addressing Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Guidelines


The University’s Addressing Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Policy confirms the University’s commitment to ensuring people are treated with dignity and respect. All members of the University community have the right to study and work in an environment that is safe and inclusive.


The University Community.



Upholding the mana and the tapu of individuals, whānau and communities

The University seeks to uphold the mana (standing) and tapu (sacred) of individuals, whānau (family) and communities connected to the University. We are all comprised of various parts and we bring the totality of ourselves to our work or study. Whakanoa i te tapu i te tangata is the diminishing of any element that constitute the person’s tapu or the totality of the person’s tapu.

These include:

  • taha wairua (spiritual dimension)
  • taha hinengaro (psychological dimension)
  • taha tinana (physical dimension)
  • taha whānau (family dimension)


For definitions of bullying, harassment and discrimination, please see the definitions section at the end of the guidelines.

What are some examples of bullying?

Some examples of repeated, persistent behaviour that may constitute bullying are:

  • continually making jokes or demeaning remarks about a person, or making more remarks about one member of a team compared to other team members
  • verbal abuse, swearing or name calling
  • excluding or isolating individuals
  • intimidation
  • deliberately ignoring or blanking someone
  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to a person’s role
  • deliberately changing rosters to inconvenience particular individuals
  • repeatedly demonstrating a clear bias and preferential treatment of one employee over an equally qualified other
  • deliberately ignoring routine email or requests from certain individuals, or neglecting to involve a staff member in a work social event likely to be seen as a normal feature of work life
  • deliberately withholding information that is vital for effective work performance
  • placing demeaning comments on social networking sites
  • putting hateful or derisory messages on social media eg attacks on a person’s personality or appearance
  • abuse of supervisory or managerial authority
  • posting negative or defamatory comments on social media about a person
  • frequent unwanted requests of another student for assistance with work or assignments
  • subjecting one student’s work or class contributions to public criticism in a demeaning or derogatory manner
  • unrealistic and persistent expectations that a casual staff member or graduate teaching assistant attend unpaid meetings or provide extra support above and beyond what has been agreed in their employment arrangement

Whilst all of these behaviours are unacceptable, some will be considered more serious than others.

What behaviour does not constitute bullying?

It is important that we are able to have honest and respectful conversations in the University environment.

Examples of behaviours that are not bullying include:

  • differences of opinion and non-aggressive conflicts
  • robust intellectual debate
  • evaluative critical comments in the context of assessment of students work
  • constructive feedback
  • performance management and other disciplinary action in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures
  • setting expectations and discussing performance assessments. For example, I might find my manager’s behaviour to be unwelcome, but my manager may well be trying to address a performance issue and is entitled to do that
  • direction of day to day management
  • a single incident of unreasonable behaviour unless there is an established pattern

What are some examples of harassment?

Harassment can take many forms including:

  • unwanted physical contact, ranging from an invasion of space to an assault
  • offensive comments, including insults, jokes or gestures, open hostility, verbal or physical threats
  • insulting, abusive, embarrassing or patronising behaviour or comments, humiliating, intimidating, and/or demeaning criticism
  • spreading malicious rumours about an individual
  • suggesting that Māori and Pacific students are only enrolled because of preferential treatment
  • challenging the right of Māori and Pacific students to be at the University
  • putting up pictures of a person on social media without consent
  • attacks on the privacy of the individual, for example by putting personal information on social media without their consent
  • persistently shouting at, insulting, threatening, disparaging or intimidating an individual
  • constantly criticising an individual without providing constructive support to address any performance concerns
  • persistently overloading an individual with work that s/he cannot reasonably be expected to complete
  • posting offensive comments on social media, including using mobile communication devices
  • isolation from normal work or study place, conversations, or social events
  • organising team social events at inaccessible locations, preventing a staff member in a wheelchair from attending
  • ridiculing someone’s weight or body shape
  • purposefully ‘outing’ a gay person in public without their consent

Sexual harassment may involve, for example:

  • sexual assault
  • requests for sexual favours, or sexual advances
  • leering, wolf whistles, obscene gestures, jokes or innuendo
  • inappropriate comments or a conversation about a person’s sex life or relationships
  • unwelcome comments about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • displays of sexually offensive material, such as emails, posters, pictures, graffiti, screen savers or text messages
  • suggestive or sexual jokes, suggestive behaviour, telephone calls
  • uninvited touching, hugging or kissing or other forms of physical contact
  • inappropriate invasion of a person’s personal space
  • persistent comments or images placed on social networking sites, for example Facebook and Twitter
  • persistent and unwelcome personal contact after being asked to desist
  • deliberately using the wrong name or pronoun in relation to a transgender person, or persistently referring to their gender identity history
  • threatening to disclose, or disclosing, a person’s sexuality or gender identity to others without their permission

Racial harassment may include:

  • making offensive remarks about a person’s race
  • mimicking the way a person speaks
  • making jokes about a person’s race
  • calling people by racist names

Gender-based harassment may include:

  • making demeaning or unwelcome comments based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • inappropriate comments or conversation about a person’s sex life or relationships
  • persistently referring to the gender identity history of a transgender person
  • threatening to disclose, or disclosing, a person’s sexuality or gender identity to others without permission
  • abusive phone calls with comments around a person’s gender or sexual orientation
  • stereotypical comments which could be interpreted as sexist and make people feel uncomfortable

Stalking may be characterised by any of the following repeated and unwanted behaviours:

  • repeatedly following a person
  • persistently contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means
  • monitoring a person use of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication
  • loitering in any place (whether public or private) with the intention of catching the attention of someone, who does not wish for contact
  • interfering with any property in the possession of a person
  • watching or spying on a person including through the use of CCTV or electronic surveillance

What is unlawful discrimination?

It is unlawful to discriminate against a person based on any of the following grounds of discrimination (contained in the Human Rights Act 1993)

  • sex
  • marital status
  • ethical belief
  • religious belief
  • colour
  • race
  • ethnic or national origins
  • disability
  • age
  • political opinion
  • employment status
  • family status
  • sexual orientation

Discrimination can be direct or indirect discrimination. Discrimination is unlawful even if there is no intention to discriminate.

Which activities are specifically addressed by the laws against discrimination?

Discrimination is unlawful in areas, including:

  • recruitment
  • terms and conditions of employment
  • refusing or limiting access to opportunities for promotion, salary increases, leave or professional development
  • termination of employment
  • vocational services
  • provision of goods and services
  • education and employment

The University has a particular commitment to ensuring safe, inclusive and equitable environment for the groups named in the equity policy, which include Māori as tangata whenua, pacific peoples, people with disabilities, people with refugee backgrounds, students from low socio economic backgrounds, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Intersex (LGBTI, and including people of diverse gender identities).

What are some examples of victimisation?

Examples of victimisation include:

  • suggesting to a would be complainant that it would be better for them (or the team) if they did not make a formal complaint
  • threatening behaviour
  • disciplinary action that is not otherwise warranted and would not have been taken if a complaint had not been made
  • unreasonable change in duties or relocation
  • exclusion or isolation
  • failure to promote a person or downgrading a performance rating because they are regarded as a 'trouble maker' due to the complaint
  • allocating tasks which are not usually part of a person's normal duties because they have made a complaint
  • deliberately grading/marking a student’s work lower than it warrants

What resolution processes are available?

Depending on the severity of the situation and the wishes of the complainant, different approaches are available. Please see either the Staff Complaint Process Flowchart or Student Complaint Process Flowchart. You can consider any of the following:


  • In many cases, telling the person concerned that their behaviour is causing distress, explaining why it is unwelcome and asking for it to stop will be sufficient. Often, the person is not aware that their behaviour is causing distress, and they will stop immediately once told

Informal resolution

  • If a complaint cannot be resolved by direct discussion, or an individual does not feel comfortable addressing the issue face to face or in writing, they should discuss the matter and seek guidance from an appropriate person
  • For staff members this can be:
    • their academic head,
    • their manager,
    • human resources manager,
    • their union representative
  • For students this can be:
    • class representatives,
    • the Student Advocacy Network (AUSA Student Advice Hub) including Nga Tauira Māori
    • Student Information Centre,
    • academic head,
    • course convenor,
    • the Proctor
    • Kaiārahi/ Associate Dean Māori and Pacific
  • Any of these contacts for either staff members or students can provide information on the policy and are able to discuss options available to the individual on how to deal with their particular concerns.
  • Initiating a discussion with one of these people may help to determine whether the behaviour experienced constitutes bullying and/or harassment and will help to understand the process, and develop options for resolving the concerns.
  • An informal process can resolve the concerns through dialogue and without a formal complaint. The informal process isn’t disciplinary. Informal options include:
    • Reporting to a manager who is responsible for identifying and mitigating any (current or future) risk and for example agreeing to an early mediation resulting in agreement understood by all parties
    • A manager or other appropriate third party to have a conversation with the alleged perpetrator regarding the inappropriate behaviours and advising them of the impact on others and what the university considers acceptable and unacceptable conduct
    • The manager facilitating a discussion without prejudice, where appropriate, between the complainant and the other party in an attempt to resolve the situation, being mindful of personal safety, power dynamics and possible victimisation

Formal complaint

  • If the issue has not been resolved by direct discussion or informal means, it may become a formal complaint
  • For staff members, the first stage in requesting an investigation of a complaint of bullying and/or harassment is to speak with:
    • the academic head,
    • a manager,
    • human resources representative

For students, you may approach the Student Advocacy Network (AUSA Student Advice Hub) for advice or the first stage is to request an investigation by the proctor.

Reporting harassment from external/anonymous/unknown sources

Staff members who have experienced harassment from an unknown/anonymous or external source may contact the Staff Service Centre on ext. 86000 or on 09 923 6000. The call will be directed to nominated staff with specialist training who will provide options for immediate support and link the affected staff member with the Staff Risk Intervention Team (SRIT).

The SRIT comprises representatives from Human Resources, Information Technology Services, Security, Equity Office, Risk Office and the Staff Service Centre. The SRIT will support the affected staff member and connect them to relevant resources.

Whistleblower hotline

Staff members and students may also use the externally managed whistleblower hotline to report harassment, bullying or discrimination. Reporting through the whistleblower hotline is a suitable option for people who do not wish to report to any of the previously mentioned options, prefer an online form or want to make an anonymous report.

Note: formal action may be limited for completely anonymous reports. More info is provided on the Whistleblower hotline page or by calling the whistleblower hotline at 0800 100 526.

What should I do if I witness or hear about an incident which concerns me?

You can take action if you witness bullying, harassment or discrimination at the University. You can also take action if you didn’t see the bullying, harassment or discrimination occur but someone told you that it happened. The action you take may be different but both forms of action can be effective.

Some ways that bystanders/witnesses can take action are:

  • Notice harassment when it occurs- recognise the behavior for what it is, name it and do not ignore it
  • Talk to the person who is doing the harassment, asking him/her to stop the harassment
  • Encourage the person experiencing the bullying, harassment or discrimination to speak to one of the contacts noted on the Staff Complaint Flowchart or Student Complaint Process Flowchart to initiate action

You can also, ideally with the permission of the person, speak to one of the contacts noted on the Bullying and Harassment Flowcharts yourself.

How to deal with any reported incident

If it is within your responsibility to handle the complaints process, then you should follow prescribed procedures. If this is not within your area Staff Complaint Flowchart or Student Complaint Process Flowchart.

  • Any reported incident should be dealt with using the following behaviors as a guideline:
  • Treat all complaints seriously
  • Take prompt steps to resolve any complaints
  • Treat all complaints with good faith
  • Be non-judgmental, impartial and empathetic
  • Ascertain the views of the complainant as to what outcome he/she wants
  • Advise on options available for resolution of complaints, eg, self-resolution, informal resolution, facilitation, formal complaint and internal investigation
  • Advise the complainant that choosing to resolve the matter informally does not preclude them from pursuing a formal complaint if they are not satisfied with the outcome
  • Advise on the resolution process which is dependent on the seriousness of the complaint and the people involved i.e; staff member, student, unknown or external perpetrators etc.
  • Respect the choice of the complainant
  • Confidentiality does not mean secrecy. However, information is to be disclosed only to those people who the University believes need to know about the complaint
  • Show any notes taken at meetings to the complainant
  • Identify and appropriately manage any conflict of interest in management of the complaint
  • Advise of any information which will be presented to the alleged perpetrator
  • Ensure that complainant knows that they can lodge the complaint outside of the organisation through the relevant legal framework

Note - Where there is concern that a crime may have been committed, staff members and students are advised to make a complaint to the police.

Raising and dealing with a formal complaint

  • The complainant advises that there is a problem, the nature of the problem and what action they wish to be taken
  • A written submission is preferable but not necessary
  • Specific allegations should include dates, times, how the situation has impacted on them, names of any witnesses, if/how they responded
  • Delegate/s will be assigned to investigate the complaint if appropriate
  • The delegate/s will write to the alleged perpetrator and notify them of: the details of the complaint and who made it, a time to meet, the process and timeframe of the investigation and the requirement for confidentiality and non-victimisation
  • The delegate/s will meet separately with both parties as soon as possible to explain the investigation process and their rights and responsibilities
  • The delegate/s will interview all parties involved, any witnesses and review any relevant documentation
  • Advice and support will be provided to both the complainant and the alleged perpetrator.
  • Both parties can take a support person or union representative with them to any meetings
  • The determination will be made on the balance of probability after considering all the facts. A written report on the delegate/s findings with recommended solutions will be provided to the appropriate manager
  • The manager will meet with each person separately to discuss the recommended outcome after receiving the findings of the investigation

What is facilitated discussion/mediation?

  • A facilitated discussion is a voluntary process whereby parties are assisted to resolve a problem between them by an independent, impartial third party in a confidential forum
  • The facilitator has the role of encouraging those with a problem to explain what has occurred, to discuss the concern that has arisen, and to come to a resolution that is satisfactory to both parties
  • Once the resolution is agreed, steps to ensure implementation and follow up will be outlined
  • A facilitated discussion may be an outcome as part of the informal or formal stage of the process
  • Formal Referral to a mediator can be made by the Proctor (where a student is involved) or an HR manager (where staff are involved) or by any individual

What do we do if we come across false accusations, vexatious complaints or defamation?

  • Allegations of bullying and/or harassment are serious matters and can potentially damage an individual's reputation
  • Intentionally false accusations of a frivolous or vexatious nature, or allegations that are found to be unsubstantiated will be viewed seriously and may result in the University taking disciplinary action against the complainant

How can I get support?

Staff members are encouraged to seek support from

Students are encouraged to seek support from

If further help or guidance is required on the policy, contact:

  • Academic head/manager
  • Human resources representative
  • Proctor
  • Equity Office
  • Union representative
  • EAP Services
  • Student Advocacy Network (AUSA Student Advice Hub)
  • Student Information Centre

Key relevant documents


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic head covers heads of departments, schools and other teaching and research units at Level 3 in the University Organisation Structure (or delegates).

Bullying is any repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a person, or group of people, that can lead to physical or psychological harm. This includes cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully, harass or frighten a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.

Discrimination can occur when a person is treated less favourably than another person, in the same or similar circumstances, because of a prohibited ground such as their sex, colour, religious belief, race, marital status, ethnic or national origins, family status, ethical belief, sexual orientation, political opinion, age, employment status or disability.

Discrimination in employment can occur in a person’s employment where the University, or a representative of the University, by reason of any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination, or involvement in the activities of a union:

(a) Refuses or omits to employ an applicant for work that they are qualified for;

(b) Refuses or omits to offer or afford to that employee the same terms of employment, conditions of work, fringe benefits, or opportunities for training, promotion, and transfer as are made available for other employees of the same or substantially similar qualifications, experience, or skills employed in the same or substantially similar circumstances; or

(c) Dismisses that employee or subjects that employee to any detriment, in circumstances in which other employees employed by that employer on work of that description are not or would not be dismissed or subjected to such detriment; or

(d) Retires the employee, or requires or causes the employee to retire or resign, directly or indirectly, and can be unlawful when relating to particular legislative requirements:

Indirect discrimination occurs when there is any conduct, practice, requirement, or condition that is not apparently discriminatory but has the effect of treating a person or group of persons differently on one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination in a situation where such treatment would be unlawful under the Human Rights Act. This type of conduct, practice, condition or requirement is likely to be indirect discrimination unless the University can establish that there is good reason for it.

Unlawful discrimination can occur when one person is treated less favourably than someone else is treated, or would be treated, in the same or similar circumstances, because that person has a particular attribute, such as sex, colour, religious belief, race, marital status, ethnic or national origin, family status, ethical belief, sexual orientation, political opinion, age, employment status or disability that is specifically listed in Human Rights legislation.

Exceptions may apply, including as set out in the Human Rights Act 1993, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Employment Relations Act 2000, or relevant case law. For example, measures taken in good faith for the purpose of assisting or advancing persons or groups of persons disadvantaged because of unlawful discrimination, do not constitute discrimination.

Environment means both physical environments at the University and online platforms including internet, intranet and social media.

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating to any other person and is either repeated, or of such significant nature that it has a detrimental effect on the person, their performance or their work and study environment. While all behaviour in this category is unacceptable, some behaviour will be considered to be more serious than others.

Even if there is no intention to offend or humiliate, seemingly harmless acts such as gossip, jokes, teasing or the use of inappropriate nicknames, could all possibly constitute unlawful harassment.

Racial harassment is the use of language, or visual material or physical behaviour that expresses hostility against, or brings into contempt or ridicule, any other person on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that person; is hurtful or offensive; and is either repeated or serious enough to have a detrimental effect on a person in one of the areas specified by the Human Rights Act 1993.

Gender based harassment describes a wide range of behaviour based on gender stereotypes, sexual orientation or gender identity. Such behaviour includes verbal, physical, visual or digital actions which demean, belittle or threaten a person. It does not necessarily suggest sexual interest or intent; it is often about making a person feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, inferior or vulnerable.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating to any other person and is either repeated, or of such a significant nature, that it has a detrimental effect on the person, their performance or their work and study environment. It is unlawful to sexually harass another person even if there was no intention to harass the person.

Staff members refers to an individual employed on a full time or part time basis.

Stalking refers to pattern of repeated threatening or harassing behaviours that directly or indirectly communicate a threat, or place the victim in fear.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

University community includes all staff members (whether permanent, temporary or part time), honorary staff, students (whether full time or part time), contractors, subcontractors, consultants, alumni, associates, business partners or official visitors or guests of members of the University or UniServices.

Unreasonable behaviour means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating or threatening a person.

Victimisation occurs if someone suffers unfavourable treatment because they have made, or propose to make, a genuine complaint of unacceptable behaviour, or appear as a witness or provide information about such a complaint.

Document management and control

Owner: Director, Human Resources
Content manager: Associate Director, HR Advisory
Approved by: Vice-Chancellor
Date approved: 18 February 2019
Review date: 18 February 2022