- Tribunal case studies

Pregnancy discrimination in employment

A complainant had all but completed her final year of a hairdresser apprenticeship with the respondent.  At the same time, she was pregnant and was unwell for a month.

The woman’s doctor then certified her fit to return to her duties, but the respondent decided to terminate her apprenticeship despite the complainant having completed all requirements to finish it.  When this complaint did not conciliate the Commissioner referred the matter to the Tribunal with legal assistance.

The parties settled the matter during mediation with the respondent agreeing to pay the complainant $6,500.

Impairment discrimination in employment

A government department employed the complainant as a casual cleaner in a regional area.  The complainant sustained injuries during her employment and claimed workers’ compensation.

When the complainant completed her rehabilitation, the department did not renew the complainant’s services or provide any explanation for this.  The department stated that she was a casual and they had no obligation to employ her.

The complainant alleged that the department discriminated against her on the ground of her impairment in employment.  The Commission investigated the complaint but it could not be conciliated and the matter was referred by the Commissioner to the Tribunal with assistance from a legal officer.  The matter was mediated and the respondent agreed to pay $15,000.

Pregnancy discrimination in employment

The complainant had worked at the respondent’s bakery for over a year when she became pregnant.  When she advised her employer of her pregnancy, he summarily terminated her employment.

The Commission investigated her complaint and unsuccessfully attempted to conciliate it.  The Commissioner referred the matter to the Tribunal and granted legal assistance to the complainant.

The matter settled during mediation by the respondent agreeing to pay the complainant $12,000.

Impairment discrimination in goods and services

The complainant was hard of hearing and communicated in Auslan.  The respondent had organised a public event to which the complainant bought tickets.

She asked if Auslan interpreters would be available for the events to which she had bought tickets. The respondent said there would be no interpreters, but he offered extra tickets so the complainant could bring her own interpreter. This would have imposed an extra expense for the complainant so she lodged a complaint alleging indirect discrimination on the ground of her impairment in the area of the provision of goods, services and facilities.

The Commission investigated the matter but the parties did not settle during conciliation and the matter was referred by the Commissioner to the Tribunal and granted legal assistance.

The parties resolved the matter in mediation by the respondent agreeing to provide Auslan interpreters for at least one day, and to liaise with a deaf peak body to maximise the use of Auslan interpreters on such days.

Exemption application dealt with in the State Administrative Tribunal

Sex discrimination in employment

The applicant was a college which teaches therapeutic massage to young people, most of whom are females below the age of 18.  Part of the training requires that students provide massages to members of the public who can book appointments by telephone.

The college wanted to restrict older males from booking massages so as to minimise exposure of young females to this category of people.  The college applied for an exemption of the relevant sex discrimination provisions in the Act.

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity is a default party in exemption applications.  The Commissioner considered the application and formed the view that there was no statutory exception in the Act that catered for what the college wanted to do.  The Commissioner also formed the view that what the college wanted to do was reasonable bearing in mind the gender and ages of most of the students doing the therapeutic massage course.  Consequently, the Commissioner decided to support the college’s exemption application.