Complaint case studies

Age in clubs and sport

A 58 year old sporting association referee alleged age discrimination when the ‘time criteria fitness test’ used to assess referees was suddenly shortened. The referee said because of this change it was less likely people over the age of 50 would be able to pass the test. Given there are different levels of games to be refereed he alleged the shortened time was unreasonable in the circumstances.

The Respondent stated the change was to encourage the referees to improve their level of fitness and the Complainant and others over the age of 50 were able to comply with the test.

Outcome – Conciliated The complaint resolved when the Respondent acknowledged the Complainant's concerns and agreed to research and review how the fitness test was conducted.

Age and impairment in goods, services and facilities and access to places and vehicles

An older man who used a gopher for mobility, was a tenant in a unit complex. The driveway out of the complex had speed humps to dissuade hoon drivers, but these humps made it very difficult for him to leave or return to the complex.  He lodged a complaint of age and impairment discrimination against the Body Corporate.

Outcome – Conciliated The matter resolved when it was agreed to pave an area beside the speed humps which enabled the complainant easy access to and from the complex.

Age in employment

An 82 year old man who worked as a grounds person lodged an age discrimination complaint because his supervisor referred to him as a “a senile old c__t”, “useless”, and had suggested he would “get rid of him.”

Outcome - Conciliated The complaint resolved when the supervisor provided a written apology.

Age in employment

A 58 year old man was interviewed for a job in which he had been acting for three months.  He alleged age discrimination when another man was appointed to the position.

Outcome – Dismissed – lacking in substance The complaint was dismissed when the employer provided examples of the applicant’s deficient work practices. In addition, the employer stated the company did not discriminate against older workers, as shown by the previous occupant of the job who was five years older than the complainant.  Furthermore, the person appointed to the job was the same age as the complainant, and the successful applicant was also the oldest of 11 applicants for the position.


Family status in employment

A man worked as a supervisor in a large community agency and his brother worked in a separate part of the same workplace. The man alleged family status discrimination when his employment was terminated because his brother’s employment “posed a potential for a conflict of interest”.

Outcome – Conciliated When the employer’s Head Office received the complaint statement, they reviewed the policy on this issue, reversed the decision to terminate the man and agreed to re-employ him at the same workplace.

Family responsibility in employment

A woman living in a remote mining town returned to work from parental leave and requested part time work for three months to allow her to organise child care for her infant. She alleged family responsibility discrimination when the employer said it was unable to accommodate her request for a change to normal work rosters and a flexible return to work.

Outcome – Dismissed – lacking in substance The company claimed due to a down turn in business staff numbers had been reduced, and the company could not accommodate the complainants request for a flexible return to work. In addition, the company stated the complainant had not been treated any differently to other workers who had made similar requests.

The Commissioner wrote to the company about the difficulties faced by people with family responsibilities, particularly in remote mining towns, and encouraged them to support employees with family responsibilities through changes to return to work policies or by supporting appropriate facilities and services.



Impairment in goods, services and facilities

A woman with a hearing impairment applied to go on an overseas tour. She alleged impairment discrimination when she was told the tour company because of safety reasons could not accept her booking unless she travelled with a hearing companion. The company claimed none of the hotels on the tour had fire and emergency alarms appropriate for deaf people, or staff trained to deal with this issue.

Outcome – Conciliated The complainant accepted the explanation there was no requirement in the overseas destination for hotels to have flashing lights in rooms or other deaf related technology to wake people in emergency.  She also accepted the message from the tour company had not been clearly conveyed to her by her travel agent.

Impairment in goods, services and facilities

A man visited his local coffee shop and staff raised issue with his carer as to whether he would be fed the coffee by mouth.  The man’s carer said his client would be fed via a PEG tube.  A complaint of impairment discrimination was lodged when the café staff told the carer customers had complained about peg feeding and it was suggested he be taken to the disabled toilets instead.

Outcome – Conciliated The complainant provided an impact statement and accepted the respondent’s letter of apology; and the respondents registered and completed Equal Opportunity Law training.

Impairment in education

A post graduate university student alleged impairment discrimination after he failed his final year of a master’s qualification.  He alleged the university failed to adequately consider his impairments or make necessary adjustments in organising his participation in the practical components of his final year course.

The university denied discrimination, and additional information was sought from both parties.

Outcome – Dismissed – lacking in substance Upon review of complaint file the Acting Commissioner dismissed the complaint as lacking in substance because the complainant had not established there was a causal connection between his impairment and an alleged failure by the university to provide reasonable adjustments. 

Nonetheless, the Acting Commissioner wrote to the university about reviewing its processes for identifying when impairment related adjustments were required.


Pregnancy in employment

A woman advised her employer of her pregnancy and expected her full-time employment would continue late into her pregnancy. Shortly after her standard hours of work were changed, and she was presented with a range of unachievable goals. She said these two factors made it impossible for her to continue working and she claimed this forced her out of her job.

Outcome – Conciliated Financial compensation $10,000

Pregnancy in employment

An administrative assistant advised her employer she was pregnant.  She alleged she was then subject to offensive remarks from colleagues about her mental state.  When she complained to her manager she was told her only option was to change her hours and days of work so she would have less contact with the colleagues making the comments. She objected because a change of hours would result in a drop in her pay.  At a team meeting she was subjected to further offensive remarks and decided to leave her employment.

Outcome – Conciliated Financial compensation $4,000


Race in goods, services and facilities

A woman of African ancestry lodged a complaint of race discrimination because of the way she was allegedly treated by a security officer in a shopping centre. The security officer approached her after he claimed to have received a call from the shopping centre management to check her bag and receipt. She felt she was being racially profiled because she is African.

The allegations of race discrimination was denied, and the security officer claimed he was responding to a call to search the bags of a customer who may have been shoplifting.

Outcome – Conciliated Financial compensation $1,500

Race in access to places and vehicles - group complaint

In a regional area, two groups of young Aboriginal people in similar circumstances but on separate days were denied entry to a venue.  They believed they were compliant with the entry requirements, and alleged race discrimination when they were denied entry whilst young non-Aboriginal people were allowed in.  The service provider explained in their view the young Aboriginal people were not compliant with the entry requirement and that was the reason for being denied entry. 

Outcome – Conciliated Following intensive conciliation sessions with each group, the matter settled with an apology, complementary entry tickets for the young people, and Aboriginal awareness training for staff.


Religious conviction in employment

A woman lodged a complaint of religious conviction discrimination on behalf of her daughter when the young woman was required to remove her hijab during a trial employment placement.

Outcome – Conciliated On receipt of the complaint the employer provided a written apology, agreed the requirement to remove the hijab was not acceptable and undertook to retrain staff to ensure this type of incident would not occur again. 

The employer also asked to meet with the mother and daughter prior to the conference and at this meeting he offered the daughter employment and support in the workplace. The daughter accepted the employment and advised the Commission the complaint had been successfully conciliated.


Sex in employment

A man alleged sex discrimination after he unsuccessfully applied for work as a security officer on ‘14 occasions’.  He claimed sex discrimination on the basis he was well qualified and experienced for this type of work and that the 'HR department and selection panels were comprised entirely of women'.

Outcome – Dismissed – complainant referred to State Administrative Tribunal The matter was dismissed when the employer provided evidence demonstrating all advertised vacancies for security officers were filled by males and the selection panels were either all male, or mixed gender.

The man disagreed with the decision to dismiss his complaint and required the Commissioner to refer his allegations to the State Administrative Tribunal.

Sex and age in education

A woman sent an enquiry to a co-educational private school, advising she was considering enrolling her daughter. She asked the school if there was an option for her to wear shorts/trousers because her daughter did not like wearing skirts.  The woman was advised skirts were mandatory for girls and if her daughter did not like wearing skirts this school was not for her.

Outcome – Conciliated The school agreed to add the options of formal trousers to the girl’s winter uniform and formal shorts to the girl’s summer uniform.

Sex, sexual harassment and victimisation in employment

A woman lodged a complaint of sexual harassment, sex discrimination and victimisation because of the way she was treated during a work trial at a deli.

She alleged the deli owner asked her intrusive questions of a sexual nature that made her feel uncomfortable. For example, he asked her if she had sex with her boyfriend, if she watched porn, and he talked about his sexual life when he was younger.

After working a couple more shifts she was going to confront the owner but she was not given any more shifts. The allegations were denied. Other employees were present during the work trial and did not witness any of the allegations claimed in the complaint.

Outcome – Conciliated Verbal apology given and respondent to attend EO law training.


Victimisation in employment

A woman lodged a complaint of sexual harassment against her manager and this was resolved at a conciliation conference.

She claimed that shortly after her complaint was resolved she was made redundant.  She then lodged a complaint with the Fair work Commission alleging unfair dismissal.

After that matter was resolved she lodged a complaint of victimisation under discrimination law, claiming her redundancy was causally connected to the sexual harassment complaint she had lodged with the Equal opportunity Commission.

Outcome – Conciliated Financial compensation $6,000 and the provision of a letter of regret.


PID victimisation in employment

A man lodged a complaint of victimisation against his employer under the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act.

Outcome – Dismissed - misconceived When the complaint was investigated it was found the man had not followed the correct process for lodging a PID, and therefore no PID had been registered.

Because no PID had been registered, and can't be registered retrospectively, the Acting Commissioner had no option but to dismiss the complaint as misconceived as it did not fall under the jurisdiction of the EO Act.