Discrimination in the workplace can result in litigation and fines
Employers need to ensure that they have policies in place regarding all forms of discrimination and have adequately trained their staff on their rights and responsibilities in minimising or eliminating discrimination in the workplace. Failure to do is likely to lead to litigation, penalties, or in some situations, negotiated financial settlements.
Anti-Discrimination NSW, the New South Wales state government body that administers the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, regularly publishes case studies that highlight the range of discrimination employers and employees face in the workplace.
Some recent NSW cases include:
- A 54-year-old woman was made redundant after a restructure. In her complaint, she said that a member of the management team had publicly stated that the business wanted employees who were ‘young, vibrant and recent graduates’. An undisclosed financial settlement was agreed between the parties.
- A female mature-aged apprentice, terminated by her employer, claimed that she lost her apprenticeship because of a report of bullying she made to WorkCover. Her former employer denied the allegations and claimed she was terminated due to poor performance. The complaint was resolved after the employer agreed to pay her a sum of $10,000.
- An unsuccessful applicant for a job as a community care worker disclosed at her interview that she lived with depression and anxiety. While seeking feedback, she was told that her disclosures made her unsuitable for the job. The business agreed to pay her $5,000 compensation as well as committing future recruitment and selection team members to anti-discrimination training.
- An Aboriginal male bartender and courtesy bus driver claimed that after returning to his employer’s base, his supervisor was racially abusive towards him. He accepted a payment of $5,000 in settlement.
- A female Palestinian was offered a job as a sales assistant in a high-fashion women’s clothing store. When she advised her new employer of her intention to wear a hijab, her job offer was withdrawn. During conciliation, she was offered another role with the company but declined the offer citing a loss of faith and confidence in the employer. The matter was settled with an undisclosed financial payment.
In a Queensland case, a woman working in a laundromat was subjected to escalating unwelcome conduct from her boss over a 14-month period, and work was withheld from her when she rejected his advances. The sexual harassment included inappropriate touching of the woman’s bottom and legs, forcing the woman to touch the man’s genitals, asking for massages, repeated requests for sex, and explicit text messages.
The initial tribunal found that the conduct constituted both sexual harassment and sexual discrimination and awarded general damages of $30,000, aggravated damages of $5,000, and special damages (loss of income until the business closed) of $15,960.75.
On appeal against the quantum of damages, the Industrial Court found the combined assessment of general and aggravated damages to be manifestly inadequate and, in their place, awarded a total of $130,000.
For questions about discrimination, training, equitable working conditions, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 925 529, 0417 622 178 or via email to email@example.com
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.