What is unlawful discrimination?

Under Federal and State legislation, Unlawful Discrimination occurs when someone, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex, pregnancy or marital status; age; disability; religion; sexual preference; trade union activity; or some other characteristic specified under anti-discrimination or human rights legislation.

Workplace discrimination can occur in:

  • recruiting and selecting staff;
  • terms, conditions and benefits offered as part of employment;
  • who receives training and what sort of training is offered; and
  • who is considered and selected for transfer, promotion, retrenchment or dismissal.

Source: Information for Employers, Good practice, good business: Eliminating Discrimination and Harassment in the Workplace, Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014)

Direct Discrimination – is treating someone less favourably, because they have attributes protected by law, than people without those attributes would be treated in the same or similar circumstances.

Indirect Discrimination – is often less obvious. Sometimes, a requirement, condition or practice seems fair because it applies to everyone, but a closer look shows that it has an unfair impact on some people with certain protected attributes. This is because some people or groups of people are unable, or less able, to comply with the requirement or are disadvantaged because of it. If the condition or practice is ‘not reasonable’, it may be indirect discrimination.