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September 2020

From the Commission Services Manager - The divisive nature of stereotypes

The liar’s paradox, refers to the philosopher Epimenides announcement that ‘all Cretans are liars” but, he himself is a Cretan, so is he a liar?

Here at the Commission we find stereotypes are more than a paradox, they are often used by one group to make decisions about another, often causing distress and financial loss – sometimes to both groups.

Stereotypes are not based on logic, data or research, so why do people adhere to them to when selecting future employees for their businesses, and forming important policies and practises in their customer service? 

Logic would show not all Italians eat pizza, not all men can fix taps, not all young people are tech-savvy and not all Christians go to church. So why do people rely on stereotypes such as these?

In the State Administrative Tribunal case of Pickett v Chan, a witness said Ms Chan had told her that she had been telling prospective tenants her property was not available if she did not like them.

According to the witness, Ms Chan went on to say she had an Aboriginal lady enquire about the property, but she had told the lady the property was not available because, “these people are not reliable.”

The prospective Aboriginal tenant had a full-time job, a partner, and a small child. He planned to move to the area to be closer to family support.

In the Equal Opportunity Tribunal case Cherrie Turland v Captains Girl MV Pty Ltd, the director of the respondent company instructed the roster manager to ‘phase out’ Ms Turland because she was pregnant, and she was going to leave anyway.

Colleagues of Ms Turland told the Tribunal she was a capable and diligent worker.

Recently the Federal Court found labour hire company CoreStaff WA had discriminated against a man because they felt he was too old to do the job.

In an email the CoreStaff area manager stated, “He has all the tickets we are looking for however he [sic] age is a concern – 70 years old.”

He did not get the job and he lodged a complaint.

Both the Picketts and Ms Turland received financial payments for their hurt and humiliation. The penalty CoreStaff will be required to pay is yet to be decided, but there is likely to be a cost.

People must be very careful to not let stereotypes influence our decision-making processes, not only at work but in every aspect of our lives as it may cost them a lot more in the long run.



John Byrne

Commissioner Dr John Byrne



Do special measures help or hinder racial tension?

In August students from Curtin University’s School of Design and Built Environment debated the topic Do special measures in equal opportunity help or hinder racial tension?

Equal Opportunity Commission Manager Commission Services Diana MacTiernan was asked to observe and provide feedback on the debate.

“Special measures provisions in the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 are widely under utilised in Western Australia, so it was encouraging to see Curtin University students use the topic of special measures so effectively throughout their debate,” she said.

The team arguing special measures helped racial tension said equality in the workplace encouraged acceptance and a greater understanding of what racial diversity can bring to an organisation.

While the team arguing special measures, although encouraging racial diversity, did not ease tension between races especially if employees felt their colleagues had obtained employment because of their diversity and not merit.

Ms MacTiernan said this idea was common among employers and one of the main reason special measures were not used more widely.

“We have had the quotas debate with gender equality in the workplace and the same discussions apply to other protected attributes such as impairment and race.

“Research shows employers will either consciously or subconsciously employ someone like themselves, so if it comes down to two candidates both equally capable and qualified to do the job, the person most like those on the selection panel will get the job,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan explained to the class at Curtin University the importance of diverse selection panels to help eliminate subconscious bias in the employment process.

“Until we are able to have complete diversity in selection panels all of the time, special measures in anti-discrimination law are very important not only to create a better understanding of diversity but to truly get the right person for the job,” she said

Diana MacTiernan at Curtin University 2020

Diana MacTiernan training students at Curtin University



Can I challenge a pub ban?

It one of its Liberty Lawyers columns The Guardian explains what laws are available to people wanting to challenge a pub ban.  If the ban is because of a protected attribute under state or federal anti-discrimination laws then the answer may be yes.

Drinking buddy asks:

Could the Human Rights Act – or instead any other piece of law – be used to challenge a pub ban?

I was in a pub last November and called the barman a name after he was rude to me. I left of my own volition and wrote a complaint to the pub company's head office. It issued one of those computer-generated "sorry if you feel that you have been treated etc etc"- type apologies but said nothing about me being banned. I didn't return to that pub until this month. The manager took one look at me and shook her head.

 This was the first I heard that I was banned. I was not told the reasons why, nor given the opportunity to state my side of the story, nor told how long the ban would be (or if it's a lifetime one, whether it's proportional to what I did, or rather said). If I'd done anything really bad/violent I'd have been put on Pubwatch, and I clearly haven't been as I haven't had problems getting served anywhere else in my town. Thoughts?

Read the rest of the article here.



From the vault - Sex discrimination in goods and services

In April 1992 Danny King was working at Darlot Gold Mine between Leonora and Leinster. 

The employees of the gold mine were a small community but because they worked night and day shifts there were few opportunities to socialise.

When a female employee decided to leave the employment her fellow workers wanted to mark the occasion with a get together in Perth and Mr King was left in charge of organising the event.

The idea was some of those in the social club would go first to a restaurant and then to the Lone Star Saloon in East Perth. At a later stage, those who wanted to continue the festivities would go on to a nightclub.

Mr King made some enquiries and found The Racquet Club was near to the Lone Star Saloon and he decided to book entry for the group. He also booked a bus driver for the evening so those participating would not have to worry about driving and could have a drink if they wished.

Mr King had not been to the Racquet Club, but based on assurances he called the club and spoke to the manager of the club, Michael Brown who made the booking for 20 people, male and female, from the Darlot Gold Mine social club. Mr Brown told Mr King the group could arrive at anytime after 10pm and there would be no door charge.

Mr King’s evidence about the booking was corroborated at the hearing by Mr Brown who presented a page from the booking diary marked “Saturday 25 April, Darlot Goldmine Mixed 30” in Mr Brown’s handwriting.  Other entries refer to a “Does” function and a “Hens night”.

On April 25, certain members of the group were collected in a minibus driven by a Mr Edward Koza. After the minibus collected Mr King at about 9pm it picked up some others from the Charles Hotel and Mr King said he had one beer there while waiting for others to arrive to go on to the Lone Star Saloon.

The Lone Star closed at midnight and the bus then took those left, seven men, to the Racquet Club.

Mr King approached the doorman and mentioned the arrangements that had been made with Mr Brown. The doorman referred him to the receptionist who confirmed the appointment from the booking diary; however, she said to Mr King, “go back and check with the doorman, it’s up to him.”

Mr King was surprised by this but complied. According to Mr King the doorman said, “We can’t have 20 or 30 men coming in causing trouble.”

Mr King informed the doorman there were only seven of them and during the course of this discussion Mr Brown appeared and pointed out the seeking admission, contrary to the information recorded in the booking diary, wasn’t a mixed group of men and women and therefore the doorman was correct in saying the group of men could not come in.

It became clear from the discussion Mr Brown and the doorman felt the group of men would cause trouble and were not going to let them gain entry even though Mr King invited Mr Brown to inspect the group who, according to Mr King, were not drunk and were well composed.

In his evidence Mr Brown said he’d refused admission to the group because of their quarrelsome behaviour rather than any lack of sobriety. He also said he grew suspicious when he asked the group where the women were and was told they would be arriving after.

Mr Brown said if the women had arrived after he would have allowed the group to come in as in his experience, the presence of women have a stabilising influence.

The driver, Mr Koza, had not consumed alcohol during the evening and he confirmed the group was not quarrelsome nor overly drunk.

Mr King said he felt humiliated by the event and received some jibes from others in the party about his lack of ability to organise a function well; however when it because clear they were not going to gain entry Mr Koza took then to another nightclub where they enjoyed the rest of the evening.

Before they left, Mr King saw a group of women similar in size gaining entry to the Racquet Club and so Mr Kind decided to lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

In response to Mr King’s complaint Mr Brown wrote a letter referring to arrangements made by a Mr Mark Campagna for a group booking from Gwalia Minerals and suggested that no telephone call had been taken from a Mr King of the Sundowner Minerals Darlot Mine social club.

In his letter of response he goes on to say the group of men were not admitted to the club because they said the female members were arriving later which made him suspicious and that they were quarrelsome. It did not mention anything about lack of sobriety.

Mr Brown had not checked the bookings diary before he wrote the letter and was not able to give the Tribunal a convincing explanation as to the sources of information which caused him to write the letter of response.

The Tribunal found Mr Brown to not have a clear recollection of events of the night in question and found the recollections of Mr King and Mr Koza to be more reliable and therefore made the decision that sex discrimination had occurred in the area of goods and services.

As the group went on to another nightclub to enjoy the rest of the evening, the Tribunal found it satisfactory to substantiate the complaint made by Mr King and not award any damages.

Read the full decision.



What's coming up

22 September 2020    Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law

23 September 2020    Recruitment and Selection – Are you getting it right?

6 October 2020             Sexual harassment – Know where the line is

21 October 2020           Contact Officer Role

The Commission’s Training Calendar from July to December 2020 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page.  Please contact us on 9216 3900 if you are interested in organisation specific training or for a rights-based session for your clients or community members.

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