Workplace discrimination

Maurice Blackburn’s employment lawyers help people who have suffered discrimination in the workplace such as being dismissed, demoted, disadvantaged or treated badly at work. If you think you are being subjected to either direct or indirect discrimination at work, we can help you pursue your rights and claim compensation for lost income, hurt, distress, pain and suffering.

Have you been discriminated against at work?

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, we can provide sound legal advice and realistic, achievable solutions, and we will fight to protect your current and future earnings and professional reputation.

If you have been discriminated against at work talk to us today about how we can help you.

What is workplace discrimination?

There are laws throughout Australia which prohibit discrimination based on protected attributes, for example sex, race, disability and age. An employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on a protected attribute. Discriminating against someone at work can include, dismissing or demoting an employee, denying an employee access to opportunities or subjecting the employee to any other detriment because of their protected attribute.

Workplace discrimination can happen to employees, managerial staff and executives at any level. Our expert employment lawyers have acted for employees who have been discriminated against because of their gender, pregnancy, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, race and disability.

Our record of success

Maurice Blackburn is Australia’s leading employment law practice for executives, senior managers, employees and contractors. Our specialist team have an established record in employment law and have successfully acted for many clients in cases of discrimination. Including:

  • Initiated proceedings in the Federal Court on behalf of Scott McIntyre alleging that he was dismissed by SBS because of his expression of a political opinion.
  • Successfully negotiated a six figure settlement for a woman employed in a senior position by a large multinational company. She was terminated after making complaints about discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, despite having an exceptional performance record.
  • Commenced Federal Court proceedings and successfully resolved a claim for an employee who had been dismissed and subject to discrimination due to his workplace injury.
  • Successfully negotiated a multi-million dollar settlement for a senior executive employed in the property industry who was unlawfully discriminated against after taking a period of parental leave.
  • Successfully obtained an injunction for our client Nicole McIntyre, in McIntyre v Hastings Deering (Australia) Ltd and Anor [2012] QCAT 438. Her employer had attempted to change her working hours, which would have had adverse effects on her family responsibilities meaning she would have to resign. The injunction was ordered against her employer, restraining it from changing her working hours until her complaint about the alleged discrimination was resolved.
  • Successfully resolved a discrimination case on behalf of a Senior Victorian police officer dismissed for discriminatory reasons.
  • Obtained an injunction preventing a hospital from continuing with a performance management plan on the basis that it would have unlawfully discriminated against our client because of his ADHD. The matter was ultimately resolved to the client’s satisfaction.

While most of our client’s cases are resolved promptly and discreetly via negotiations, we also have and excellent record of successful dispute resolution in discrimination matters. This may include making a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or a relevant State authority. We can assist you in choosing the right jurisdiction and guide you through the complaints process.  Our highly experienced employment lawyers are recognised for excellence in Doyle’s ‘Guide to the Australian Legal Profession’.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is direct workplace discrimination?

Direct workplace discrimination is being dismissed, demoted, disadvantaged or treated badly at work because of your:

  • race
  • sex
  • age
  • disability or impairment
  • pregnancy
  • family or carer's responsibilities
  • marital status
  • union or industrial activity
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • political belief or activity
  • personal association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of the above characteristics, or
  • having made a complaint or inquiry about your employment.

What is indirect workplace discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs where a condition, requirement or practice is imposed on you that disadvantages you because of an attribute you have. For example, the requirement that you regularly attend staff meetings outside of school hours if you are known to have family or caring responsibilities could amount to indirect discrimination.

What kind of reasonable adjustments or accommodations can I expect my employer to make for me?

In some circumstances your employer may have a positive obligation to accommodate you. For example, your employer might have an obligation to accommodate you if you have a disability, impairment or injury, in order to assist you to do your job. These obligations can extend to employers allowing flexible working arrangements to accommodate carer's responsibilities. For example, if you are a parent or carer your employer might have an obligation to allow you to work from home on particular days. If your employer refuses, it could amount to workplace discrimination.

When does being treated badly at work become 'workplace discrimination'?

To prove workplace discrimination you must prove that you have been treated unfairly or differently from your colleagues and show that the treatment is linked to one of the above direct workplace discrimination attributes.

Types of conduct that might constitute less favourable treatment include:

  • refusing to employ someone
  • setting unfair terms of employment
  • denying access to a training program
  • refusing or limiting access to opportunities for promotion, transfer or other employment benefits, or
  • dismissal.

What should I do if I am being discriminated against at work?

In addition to seeking legal advice, you can also do a number of simple things which may assist. They include:

  1. Keep a diary. Take notes of all the workplace bullying and harassment that happens to you, when it happens and who the perpetrator is.
  2. Be informed. Make sure you have a copy of your contract of employment, enterprise agreement and workplace policies and procedures that deal with occupational health and safety and harassment.
  3. If you are a union member, contact your union. Many unions are experienced in dealing with workplace bullying and harassment. If the workplace bullying and harassment is affecting a number of employees there are advantages to addressing it collectively.
  4. Speak to your OH&S representative. Get advice about procedures in your workplace.
  5. Address the situation early. Employees who are subject to workplace bullying and harassment often put the issue to one side and wait before it gets really bad before addressing it. By this time the employee may have already suffered a work related stress injury and if this is the case, they may not be able to continue working.
  6. Make a complaint. Employees who make a complaint or inquiry in relation to their employment are protected from adverse action under the Fair Work Act 2009. It is better if the complaint is in writing because this will be easier to use as evidence should the need arise. When writing a complaint be concise and stick to the key points.
  7. Take care of your health. Your mental and physical health is very important. If workplace discrimination, bullying or harassment is affecting you, make sure you see your doctor about it.
  8. Seek advice. Working out which legal or practical decisions to make can be difficult with workplace discrimination cases.  We can provide support and advice on a range of legal and personal matters.

Our fees

Your initial consultation with our Executive Employment Lawyers is on a fixed fee. If your case proceeds we operate on an hourly rate.

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