- Examples of legal matters

No exemption necessary

A private hospital applied to the Tribunal for an exemption from the race discrimination provisions in the Act with the purpose of employing Aboriginal men as health workers for Aboriginal male patients.

The Commission becomes an automatic party in exemption applications, and it assists the Tribunal in determining whether an exemption application should be granted.

The Commission’s legal officer liaised with the hospital and explained that what they intended to do fell within the scope of section 50(d) in that the requirement for a health worker to be male and Aboriginal was a genuine occupational qualification. As that section already catered for what the hospital wanted to do, the Commission’s legal officer explained to the hospital that an exemption was unnecessary.

The hospital thanked the Commission for its assistance in this matter and withdrew the exemption application. 

Jokes about terrorism resulted in complaint of racial harassment

A Pakistani Muslim worker alleged  racial harassment against a co-worker who ‘jokingly’ called him a “terrorist “, and on another occasion asked why “Pakistanis joined  ISIS”. The co-worker’s comments affected the complainant to such an extent that he developed an anxiety disorder and was unable to continue working.

The Commission was unable to conciliate this complaint and referred it to the Tribunal for resolution. At his request, the Commission granted the complainant legal assistance to be represented at the Tribunal.

The parties resolved the complaint during mediation when the co-worker agreed to pay the complainant $3,000 and apologised to him.

Sex discrimination and sexual harassment at a mining site

A woman alleged her supervisor sexually harassed her by slapping her bottom, touching her without her consent, making lewd comments about her and other female workers, and embarrassing her by making suggestive sexual comments in the presence of others.

The woman lodged a complaint against the supervisor and the employer alleging that the supervisor’s actions amounted to sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the area of employment, and that the employer was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s actions.

Conciliation was unsuccessful in resolving the matter, and the Commission referred the complaint to the Tribunal for determination. The complainant was provided with legal assistance.

The parties settled the complaint at mediation conferences in the Tribunal. While the company denied any liability and alleged it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, it decided to settle this matter by paying the complainant an undisclosed amount.

In a separate mediation, the complaint against the supervisor settled with him agreeing to pay $10,000 to the complainant, and apologising for any hurt and humiliation she suffered because of his actions towards her. The supervisor also ended up resigning from his well paid position.

The settlements did not affect the complainant’s worker’s compensation claim.


Marital status discrimination in the area of goods and services by an insurance company

A woman in her late 30s brought a complaint against an insurance company for refusing to pay for her fertility treatment on the basis that she did not have a partner when she upgraded her insurance. The company argued that not having a partner constituted a pre-existing condition within the meaning of its policy and relevant legislation.

The woman alleged unlawful discrimination on the ground of marital status (in this case, for being single and not having a partner) in the area of goods and services.

The Commissioner referred the matter to the Tribunal and the Commission’s legal officer was able to secure a settlement where the company apologised for the hurt and humiliation its decision had caused the complainant, and agreed to pay compensation of $5,000.