A bit has been in the media lately about discrimination and women’s haircuts. ABC online reported an allegation of sex discrimination in Brisbane when a woman was refused service at a Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shop in The Gap Village Shopping Centre recently.
The woman had been attending Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shops to have her haircut for two years; however, this Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shop was bound by its lease agreement with centre management not to compete with other ‘women’s’ hair salons in the shopping centre and refuse female clients.
Another ABC report covered a barber shop in Darwin which refused to cut a woman’s hair because it wanted to create ‘a safe and nurturing environment for men’.
The woman has lodged a complaint of discrimination with the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission and the complaint is under investigation.
The owner of the shop conceded discrimination was entrenched in the hairdressing industry, where women generally paid more for haircuts than men.
She said she thought that discrimination in hairdressing prices was partly because women were socialised to pay a lot more for their haircuts than men.
How would the law work in WA?
Under the WA Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (the Act), the female customer who was refused service at Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shop could lodge a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission against Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shop and the shopping centre.
If the complaint did not resolve in conciliation at the Commission and was referred to the State Administrative Tribunal, the Tribunal could find both the barber shop and the centre had breached the Act as it is unlawful for a person to cause, instruct, or permit another person to do an act that is also unlawful under the Act.
In this case the centre placing the restrictive condition on the barber shop.
The shopping centre could apply for an exemption under the Act, but they would have to persuade the Tribunal that granting the exemption is necessary to further the objects of the Act or that it is in the public interest to allow the exemption, such as it would provide safety for men.
This is also what the owner of the barber shop in Darwin would have to do if her business was based in WA and she wanted to only serve men at her shop.