What you need to Know about Workplace Discrimination
Workplace discrimination is a complicated area of law, primarily because there are so many areas of discrimination and how difficult it can be to prove discrimination. Discrimination covers many attributes, namely: race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibility, pregnancy, religion, political opinion and national extraction or social origin.
Discrimination applies when an employee (or applicant) is treated adversely by an employer on the basis of one of these protected traits. An example might be a woman who becomes pregnant and is then denied a promotion that she is the most qualified candidate for because of her pregnancy (and likely upcoming maternity leave).
This does not mean that it is always discrimination if someone who has one of these traits does not get a job or promotion; in the case above, if the successful candidate was more qualified than the pregnant woman then denying her the promotion is not discrimination. As you can imagine, discrimination is often very difficult to prove, as employers can often justify decisions that might be actually based on discrimination.
If you can prove that you were discriminated against, for example if you are told that you are being denied a bartending job the employer wants a younger face, you should see a lawyer to make sure you have a case and then submit a claim to the Fair Work Commission (your lawyer will help you). You will need to be fast though – the FWC doesn’t take submissions more than 21 days after you are wrongfully terminated or not hired.
If you cannot directly prove your claim (and most employers are clever enough not to be this blatant – indeed, most won’t give any reason for not hiring you) but you have a lot of suggestive evidence (for example, you might be very qualified and experienced but almost all of the staff at the bar you applied for are young) then it is still worth seeing your lawyer. Even if the FWC can’t help you, the threat of a civil suit and negative publicity might persuade the company to settle.
So, in summary, workplace discrimination is a very tricky area of law to prove. However, if you suspect that you have been discriminated against you should see your (or find a) lawyer immediately. Even if you can’t go through the FWC, you might still be able to get something out of the company that discriminated against you.