Hall Payne is a progressive law firm with the principles of fairness and equality at our core. We have a proud history fighting for our clients’ rights at home, at work or in education.

Discrimination refers to being treated less favourably because you possess, or are seen to possess, certain characteristics. Discrimination is not always negative but when someone is treated unfairly the law may provide rights and remedies.

Our lawyers have worked successfully in all areas including discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and vilification.

Discrimination law protects you from unlawful discrimination in a variety of areas. You have the right to be discrimination-free in most public places including work, education, accommodation, clubs, sports, insurance, superannuation and more.

Discrimination and sexual harassment are complex areas of the law. Technical knowledge is needed to navigate the different grounds, jurisdictions and remedies that may apply. If you think you’ve been discriminated against, seek advice as soon as possible as time limits relate to different claims.

Discrimination legislation is different across Australia. However, broadly speaking, Australian discrimination law is based on the presence of an “attribute” or “ground” as the basis for discrimination. This is generally the subject of discrimination and could be your:

  • age;
  • race;
  • disability;
  • gender or gender identity;
  • sexuality;
  • carer’s responsibilities; or
  • political belief.

An attribute might also be things such as marital status, pregnancy, breastfeeding duties, physical features or trade union activity.

Need help or advice about discrimination?

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There are two types of discrimination

  1. Direct discrimination - where you are treated less favourably than others in the same situation because you have a particular attribute; and
  2. Indirect discrimination - where an unreasonable condition or requirement is imposed which you cannot comply with because you have a particular attribute.

Discrimination may also occur if someone thinks you might possess one of these attributes – now or in the future. For example, if your employer thinks you might get pregnant soon and treats you differently as a result.

Not all discrimination is illegal

The law provides rights and remedies for some discrimination but not others meaning that not all forms of discrimination is considered unlawful.

To report discrimination, you should know your rights and the obligations of others. Legal advice is the best way to arm you with this knowledge. Starting a claim strongly is much easier than altering it later, so contact Hall Payne to discuss your options.

How do I make a complaint about discrimination?

Discrimination is a complex area. Each state and territory has its own anti-discrimination or equal opportunity legislation and there are also relevant Federal laws.

The way you initiate your complaint can have ramifications down the track. We want you to make the best decision first up. Seeking legal advice will get you the best outcome.

Time limits apply for making a discrimination complaint

Time limits apply for making a discrimination complaint, with most jurisdictions requiring that a complaint is made within one year of the discrimination having occurred.

Obtaining legal advice means you can prepare your complaint, and any proceedings that might follow, in the best way possible.

When is it OK to discriminate?

In some circumstances, discrimination may not be against the law.

There are many examples, both in law and out of it, where discrimination is actually a good thing.

An example is where a company who sent “handywomen” into the homes of vulnerable women were granted an exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) so they could exclude men when recruiting workers. Another example is the provision of special services or benefits to meet the requirements of those with special needs.

That said, there will often be examples of discrimination that feel wrong, but aren’t technically unlawful. Exceptions to anti-discrimination legislation exist around health and safety, religion and matters of national security. They may apply in a number of circumstances, including in employment, education and the provision of goods and services.

If you’re unsure if the discrimination you’re experiencing is allowed by law, we recommend seeking legal advice.

Our Discrimination Team

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