What Is Equal Opportunity Employment?

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Home > Blog > What Is Equal Opportunity Employment?

Equal opportunity employment is the concept that all people should have the same access to employment opportunities. What this means is that employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against an applicant based on a range of protected attributes when they are being considered for the role.

What are ‘protected attributes’ under Australian employment laws?

Employers cannot discriminate against candidates or their existing employees based on the following:

  • race;
  • colour;
  • sex;
  • sexual orientation;
  • age;
  • physical or mental disability;
  • marital status;
  • family or carer’s responsibilities;
  • pregnancy;
  • religion;
  • political opinion;
  • national extraction;
  • social origin;
  • breastfeeding;
  • gender identity; and
  • intersex status.

A range of other federal laws also prohibit discrimination. These are:

  • Racial Discrimination Act (1975)
  • Sex Discrimination Act (1984)
  • Disability Discrimination Act (1992)
  • Age Discrimination Act (2004)

In Queensland, the Anti-discrimination Act (1991) also covers this area of the law.

What legal options do I have if I am discriminated at work?

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to a protected attribute such as your gender or cultural identity, you should seek legal advice to ascertain whether your claim of discrimination is valid based on relevant laws. If you have a case, a lawyer will be able to help you navigate the legal process.

If you have been discriminated against at work and it has resulted in a demotion, termination of employment or left you with a psychological injury such as depression and/or anxiety, you may be able to seek compensation, including financial compensation for loss of earnings, damages and/or reinstatement of your original role.

If the discrimination took place during your pursuit to be employed by the organisation, you may also be able to make a claim against them in either the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Queensland Human Rights Commission

In any case, it would be prudent to gather the evidence you have to support your claim, including emails or documentation, witness accounts (including your own) and any official workplace policies that can help prove discrimination has occurred.

These matters will in the first instance progress to a conciliation where the parties can explore the issues and hopefully come to a satisfactory resolution. If a complaint does not resolve through a conciliation process, the matter may proceed to a hearing.

Once the claim has been lodged, a lawyer can help guide you through the process, including negotiating with your employer (or former employer) on your behalf, representing you at every step and helping to ensure you meet relevant deadlines and supply the correct information at each stage of the process.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of a protected attribute and you want to understand your rights and next steps, our experienced HR Consultants in Cairns can assist.