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There are many forms of discrimination. However, discrimination is only unlawful if it is against attributes that are protected under equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws ('protected attributes'). These differ between jurisdictions but include:

  • Age
  • Breastfeeding
  • Carer status
  • Disability or impairment
  • Employment activity
  • Gender identity
  • Industrial activity
  • Lawful sexual activity
  • Marital status
  • Parental status
  • Physical features
  • Political belief or activity
  • Pregnancy or potential pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religious belief or activity
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Personal association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these personal attributes

Discrimination on the basis of defence reserve service is also a prohibited ground: Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 (Cth).

In addition to being unlawful, discrimination is also an issue because of the costs to organisations and individuals involved. This includes:

Legal costs

If you receive allegations of discrimination you should obtain formal legal advice as soon as possible, so that you can determine your risks and appropriate courses of action. Otherwise you may act in a way which increases your exposure to other legal costs you may face down the track, such as defending claims by the victim or discriminator or paying damages / compensation / penalties. Please see our resources below for more information on legal considerations.

Organisational costs

Properly managing discrimination claims will take time away from key staff including HR and managers, in addition to the individuals involved (including the victim, alleged discriminator and witnesses). Other organisational costs include staff turnover and reputational damage for your business.

Costs to individuals

Discrimination can be incredibly costly for individuals, including the victim, alleged discriminator and even witnesses. Victims may suffer significant psychological harm from discrimination. Employees can lose their jobs and/or ability to work at full (or any) capacity, or become disgruntled and resign.

For more information on discrimination, please see our:

Information sheets

Age Discrimination

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Direct and indirect discrimination

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Disability discrimination

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Legal considerations

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Race discrimination

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Sex discrimination

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