In Australia, an employee has a workplace right to have an environment that is free from harassment and bullying. Unfortunately, discrimination can still occur in any workplace. If you believe you are being discriminated against, it is crucial you speak to a workplace discrimination lawyer about your rights. They can offer advice about collecting evidence, how to make a complaint or how to take legal action.
What qualifies as workplace discrimination?
Workplace discrimination occurs when an employee is treated adversely for reasons other than those based purely on credentials or performance. This can look like an employee being treated less favourably or not being given the same opportunities.
This can occur at the interview stage or during employment, and it applies to all employees: full-time, part-time, casual, contract, apprentice or trainee. It can also occur when an employer knowingly condones such behaviours from one employee to another and takes no remedial action.
What are the main types of discrimination in the workplace?
Under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, people in the workplace cannot be discriminated against based on their race, colour, descent or ethnic origin. Verbal slurs relating to ethnic background, derogatory comments about skin colour or language are both inappropriate and illegal, as are questions asked of a person along the lines of, ‘Yes, but where are you really from?’.
Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Intersex status
- Marital or relationship status
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding status
- Family responsibilities
Related information: sexual harassment
Physical or mental disability
Disability discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably or not given the same opportunities because of their disability. It can also occur when an unreasonable rule or policy is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on a person with a disability. This is all covered under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
In Australia, current or potential employees cannot be discriminated against because of their age. Age discrimination in the workplace can look like someone not being given the same opportunities or being treated less favourably because they are either too young or too old. In NSW, this is covered under The Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.
However, exceptions can apply where age is an inherent requirement of a job. For example, a bartender is required by law to be more than 18 years of age, so for that position it is necessary to be a certain age.
Discrimination because of religion can include being refused a job, being dismissed from employment, being harassed at work or being denied training opportunities. While discrimination based on religion alone is not unlawful under federal law, it can still come under ‘ethnic origin’ in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
What do I do if I feel discriminated against at work?
If you’re experiencing discrimination in the workplace, there are a few actions you can take.
- Speak to your employer
- Make a formal or informal complaint
- Speak to the perpetrator
- Seek legal advice from a workplace discrimination lawyer and proceed with legal action if the matter is not resolved
If you have been dismissed as a result of making a complaint, you may be entitled to lodge a claim under the Unfair Dismissal provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. You may wish to seek legal advice from an employment lawyer to help you through this process.
Is it hard to prove discrimination at work?
It ultimately depends on your situation, as it can vary from case to case. However, if you are experiencing discrimination, try to keep a written timeline with supporting documentation such as emails, letters and records of events. With such evidence, a workplace discrimination lawyer will be better equipped to handle your case.
Is it worth suing for discrimination?
Taking such action is a major step. Payouts in discrimination cases are generally low, and one must weigh up the potential rewards against the personal costs of time and stress. Obtaining advice from reputable workplace discrimination lawyers in Sydney is crucial.
Talk to our workplace discrimination lawyers
Discrimination and workplace bullying are serious matters. As an employee, you have the right to work in a safe environment, and as an employer, you have a responsibility to create an environment that is free from bullying or harassment. If you have any questions or wish to discuss your rights and obligations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our discrimination and harassment lawyers.
Call our discrimination law firm on 1800 770 780 to schedule an initial consultation.