Past issues

Commissioner for Equal Opportunity e-bulletin July 2016

by Equal Opportunity Commission | Jul 04, 2016

Working in the community

Creating transgender inclusive workplaces

Acting Commissioner Allan Macdonald was a speaker at a public sector forum on  workplace practices that acknowledge LGBTIQ diversity and prohibit discrimination against transgender employees. The forum was a joint initiative with the WA Public Sector Commission.

A/Cmr Macdonald said “inclusive workplace cultures have a positive benefit for the productivity of the organisation as well as the engagement of its employees “.

Public and private sector employers described the promotion of sexual and gender diversity in their workplaces and noted transgender people commonly experience significant levels of discrimination in their personal lives and at work.

Discrimination at work included not having their expressed gender acknowledged, being compelled to disclose private information, and missing out on employment opportunities.

UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Kent Anderson described the university’s success in promoting diversity and inclusion, and his personal participation in the ALLY program.

Debbie Mills, a Bankwest executive, described her experience as a line manager in promoting transgender issues. She emphasised the important role managers can play in championing and enabling inclusive workplaces.

Robyn Edwards shared her personal story of transitioning, and described how her employer, the WA Police supported her in the workplace.  Amanda Greenland and Natalie Mills described the development of the WA Police’s policy and guidelines on Gender Transition in the Workplace.

A/Cmr Macdonald said, “It is important for employers to promote programs and work place practices which value diversity and ensure that discrimination does not occur. This approach can help protect the rights and wellbeing of those vulnerable to discrimination, and also raise awareness of all employees.” 


We’ve got you covered

Racism in Women’s Sport

The ugly spectre of racism in sport was highlighted in 2013 when AFL champion and dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes outed a spectator for using a racially offensive term. As a result Goodes’ was relentlessly pursued by a vocal minority of spectators and commentators who heckled and abused him until his retirement in 2015. 

From time to time this Commission receives allegations of racism in sports such as Aussie rules, soccer and netball. A higher number of these complaints have been made by women sportspeople.

Aboriginal women in particular have alleged race discrimination in team selection and the allocation of court time. Others cited less favourable treatment by umpires, such as an incident in a grand final where an umpire refused to allow an Aboriginal player with a safely taped piercing onto the court, whereas a non Aboriginal player with a piercing was allowed to play. When the Aboriginal team captain protested the inconsistent application of rules, her team was penalised 5 points.

Aboriginal women have also complained about a failure by umpires and venue managers to deal with non-Aboriginal players and spectators who have used racist language or made stereotypical comments.

Some organisations have used the successful Play by the Rules website to help develop strategies in response to racism in sport.

Individuals and sports clubs concerned about racism in sport can contact an Enquiry Officer  on 9216 3900 to discuss how these issues may be dealt with, or to get further information on the Play by the Rules  website.


Legal update

Terminating injured workers

When an employer is considering terminating a worker on the basis they cannot undertake the requirements of their role because of an impairment or disability, section 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and  similar legislation in some Australian jurisdictions, impose an express duty on employers to implement reasonable adjustments for injured workers or people with disabilities.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA) does not contain an express provision requiring employers to implement reasonable adjustments. However, this is implied in the existing provisions of this Act by requiring employers not to discriminate either directly or indirectly against employees with impairments, and obliging employers to take all reasonable steps to obtain relevant information about the employee’s ability to do the job.

An article by Laura Gallagher discusses a complaint in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) where a 63 year old confectioner, injured his elbow working on a machine which packaged chocolate products.

In Dziurbas v Mondelez Australia Pty Ltd (Human Rights) [2015] VCAT 1432 (9 September 2015), the Tribunal held that the employer breached the Act by dismissing an employee without taking into account that he could do most of the duties of his role with some reasonable modifications. The Tribunal ordered the employer to pay $20,000 in compensation for general damages, and is considering awarding $270,000 in financial losses to the employee, pending further submissions by the employer: http://kadenboriss.com/newsletters/the-workplace-winter-2016.html#story3

It should be noted that the Victorian Act does not have a cap on damages, whereas in WA compensation is capped at $40,000.


Website highlights

New archive of old decisions

A new addition to the Commission’s web site are decisions of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT) in the period 1984 to 2005. These decisions are not available on line from any other source.

Decisions of the Tribunal in the period after 2005 are available at the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) website.

An example of a 1997 decision included in this new archive is Bogle v Metropolitan Health Service Board.

Ms Bogle, a full time Charge Nurse in a government dental clinic, took leave to coincide with the adoption of a child. When Ms Bogle sought to return to her job part-time, her employer refused her request. Management took the view the ‘charge nurse positions had never been job-shared and would not be’. Ms Bogle then alleged family responsibility discrimination.

The Tribunal determined the requirement to work full-time was, in all the circumstances, not reasonable, and found in Ms Bogle’s favour. The EOT ordered Ms Bogle be re-instated to the Charge Nurse position and financially compensated.

Read more


What's coming up at the Commission

You can register for all Commission courses on the Community Education page

  • 19 July     Recruitment and Selection - Are You Getting it Right?
  • 20 July     Fair Go For Your Clients
  • 26 July     Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law
  • 27 July     Introduction to Equal Opportunity Law - Geraldton - (9:00am to 12:30pm)

6 July      NAIDOC – visit the Commission stall at the Mirrabooka NAIDOC day on Wednesday from 10.30am to 2.30pm at the Herb Graham Recreation Centre 38 Ashbury Crescent Mirrabooka.


Can we help?

Enquiries

The Commissioner’s telephone and online enquiry service provides information on whether your circumstances can be addressed under the Equal Opportunity Act. 

Education

The Commission can deliver free education sessions and workshops for community groups and advocates about rights under the Equal Opportunity Act.

Information

The Commission website has a wealth of information for community members and organisations about their rights and responsibilities under the Act.

Find more information on the Commission's webpage Your rights

Contact us on (08) 9216 3900, 1800 198 149 (country callers) (08) 9216 3936 (TTY) or email eoc@eoc.wa.gov.au


Farewell

The Commission expresses its sincere thanks to Ms Jenni Perkins for her contribution as Acting Commissioner in the period 4 January 2016 to 3 June 2016.

Ms Perkins was tasked with co-ordinating significant changes in the staffing and structure of the Commission. In her brief time at the Commission Ms Perkins won the respect of staff for the professional and sensitive way in which she undertook a difficult job.   Ms Perkins left the Commission to take up a position as Executive Director - Community and Human Services with the WA Department of Premier & Cabinet. We wish her all the very best in her new role.