Prevention of Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Guidelines


The University’s Prevention of 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



  • assist with the implementation of the Prevention of Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Policy
  • increase understanding of the issues
  • enable members of the University community to identify, report and  resolve incidents
  • help to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination from occurring at the University


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
  • assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to a person’s role
  • deliberately changing rosters to inconvenience particular individuals
  • 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
  • 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

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


What behaviour does not constitute bullying?

Examples of behaviours that are not bullying include:

  • differences of opinion, non-aggressive conflicts, and problems in working relationships
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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
  • deliberately pronouncing people’s names incorrectly

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 discrimination 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 Maori 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. Here is a simple flowchart showing some options for resolution, however 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),
    • Student Information Centre,
    • academic head,
    • course convenor,
    • or the Proctor
  • 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.
  • They can help to:
    • establish the fundamental issue – explore options for resolution
    • determine if the issue is mediable
    • develop skills to address the alleged behaviour
    • clearly understand the further options available if the matter cannot be resolved by direct discussion

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 manager


  • 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:
    • Proctor
    • their Academic Head
    • another appropriate University manager


What is mediation?

  • Mediation 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 mediator 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
  • Mediation may be an outcome as part of the informal or formal stage of the process
  • Referral to a mediator can be made by the Proctor (where a student is involved) or an HR manager (where staff are involved)


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

  • Human Resources
  • Equity Office
  • Their line manager
  • Māori and Pacific networks
  • LGBTI network
  • Trans on campus
  • Senior university manager
  • Union representative
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

Students are encouraged to seek support from

If further help or guidance is required on this 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
  • For further information see Dispute resolution 


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

Bullying is any repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a person, or group of people, that creates a risk to their mental or physical health and safety. 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 directly or indirectly, and can be unlawful when relating to particular legislative requirements:

direct discrimination occurs 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 origin, family status, ethical belief, sexual orientation, political opinion, age, employment status or disability.

indirect discrimination occurs when there is a requirement, rule, policy, practice or procedure that is the same for everyone, but has an unequal effect on particular groups. This type of requirement is likely to be indirect discrimination unless the requirement is reasonable in all the circumstances

unlawful discrimination occurs 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

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

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: 4 February 2016

Review date: 4 February 2019