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February 2020

From the Commissioner - The right to believe in harmony

The first week of February was International Interfaith Harmony Week and March 21 is Harmony Day in Australia. It is an important to recognise at a time when public discussion about religious freedoms and religious conviction discrimination are topical.

Direct religious conviction discrimination under our Equal Opportunity Act 1984 occurs when someone with (or without) a religious conviction, is treated less favourably than someone without (or with) that religious conviction in similar or the same circumstances.

Indirect religious conviction discrimination occurs when a requirement, condition or practice is the same for everyone, but a higher proportion of people of a particular religious conviction are unable to comply with the requirement, compared to the proportion of people without that religious conviction.

For indirect discrimination to be proven  the requirement, condition or practice, must be shown to be unreasonable in the circumstances.

Under the Act, religious conviction discrimination can occur at work, in education, goods, services and facilities, accommodation, clubs and on application forms.

Exceptions to religious conviction discrimination can occur when a religious requirement imposes an unreasonable hardship on the employer, when employers or partnerships have less than six employees or partners, if the employer is a religious educational institution discriminating in good faith in order to adhere to its religious teachings, if the employer is a medical or health service run by a religious body where the duties involve a religious observance or practice, or domestic workers in private households (applicants and employees).

Exceptions also occur in the provision of accommodation in a private household of less than four people, or accommodation provided by a religious body; however, the exceptions to religious conviction discrimination at work occupy most of the public discussion around this topic and the public debate can be  less than harmonious.

Conviction is the quality of showing that one is firmly convinced of what one believes or says, which can indeed be a quality but there should also be caution in conviction.

Despite what the law says I always caution if an action or statement is likely to offend people should think twice about it. During Interfaith Harmony Week I hope everyone kept that in mind.

 

John Byrne Orange Tie

Commissioner Dr John Byrne

 


 

Commission continues to facilitate mentoring for future female leaders

The Equal Opportunity Commission will host its fourth Speed Mentoring event for International Women’s Day this year with inspirational mentors from various fields such as the Scorchers women’s team, media, technology, town planning, local government, the arts and science fields.

“These women are all influential in their fields, many of them are entrepreneurs and have mentored others who want to follow their paths,” Commissioner Dr John Byrne said.

He said he was pleased the event had enjoyed such success and continued into its fourth year.

“We receive such great feedback from the speed mentoring event from both mentors and mentees, with many mentors returning each year to impart their valuable advice,” he said.

For any enquiries about the event please contact Commission Communications Officer Sarah Johnston on 9216 3911 or sarah.johnston@eoc.wa.gov.au

International Women's Day Pic 2019

2019 Speed Mentoring event for International Women's Day


 


 

Pregnancy discrimination costs Coco's $44,800

Jewel Bay 2015 Pty Ltd which owns Coco’s Restaurant in South Perth and a company director who reduced a pregnant employee’s shifts have been ordered to pay $32,500 and $6,500 respectively, as well as $7,000 compensation to the staff member.

The Federal Court found Jewel Bay and the director had breached the Fair Work Act 2009 following the employee’s request for assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The director admitted to directing a supervisor to send the visibly pregnant staff member home because ‘she looks disgusting’.

He also said words to the effect of ‘she’s holding another human inside of her’ and she can’t move as fast as other staff’.

Jewel Bay also admitted some of the waitress’ shifts were reduced and cancelled because of her pregnancy.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin.

Except where exceptions apply, under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, pregnancy discrimination is unlawful in the areas of employment, partnerships, education, access to places and vehicles, goods, services and facilities and accommodation.

Compensation payments for pregnancy discrimination at the Equal Opportunity Commission have reached over $28,000.

To read the decision click here.

 

 


 

Tribunal dismisses impairment complaint

Following the dismissal of her impairment discrimination complaint at the Commission, a woman took her complaint to the State Administrative Tribunal where it was dismissed.

Tribunal Senior Member Eddy found the woman was unable to support her claim she was excluded from the recruitment process at a school because she was unwell with recurring kidney cancer and liver metastases.

Senior Member Eddy preferred the evidence of the respondents who appointed the person  who was relieving the woman while she was unwell, because the respondents were time-poor and wanted a stop-gap measure while they were in a busy transition phase at the school.

She accepted the evidence of the respondent that following this transition period the role would take on the different model of providing relief teaching at the new school and coordination where needed, instead of the other way around, as well as statements they were unaware of the woman’s desire to return to the position.

Throughout the hearing the woman maintained she had expressed her interest in the role, if the model remained the same as it had been prior to the transition.

She did not apply for the remodelled permanent position when it was advertised and maintained the new model would be unworkable, and anyone in the position would have to undertake it as she had when she was in the position.

Senior Member Eddy was not willing to accept the woman’s evidence the position could not function under the new model and as she could not see any clear evidence for impairment discrimination, she dismissed the complaint.

To read the full decision click here.

 

 


 

What's coming up

The Commission’s Training Calendar from January to June 2020 is now available. You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page.

19 February     Contact Officer Role

18 March        Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law

25 March        Sexual Harassment – Know where the line is

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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