Suggested Ways to Avoid a Discrimination Claim (Age, Race, Sex and Disability)

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Many businesses and organisations may consider that they are unlikely to be the subject of a discrimination complaint.

In 2013-2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission (Commission) received 19,688 enquiries and 2,223 complaints of discrimination, a 16% increase on previous years.

To ensure that your business or organisation is in the best possible position to prevent or defend a claim if and when made, management should have anti-discrimination policies in place followed closely by staff. This may require additional staff training, repurposed facilities, an open approach to employment and a culture of accepting responsibility when the business has failed to treat customers or staff fairly. If the business or organisation has these policies in place it can rely upon them in defending a complaint.

Pragma Legal can provide advice on putting these procedures in place and maximising the prospects of successfully defending a disability claim.

More on the Commission

The Commission is a government body that deals with complaints related to human rights including discrimination based on age, race, sex, disability and children’s rights, amongst other functions.

How does it work?

An example of the Commission’s procedure in considering a claim is as follows:

  1. An aggrieved individual alleges they are the victim of acts of discrimination by an aggrieving person or business;
  1. The aggrieved individual can submit a complaint to the Commission for compensation, policy change and/or physical change to correct the issue;
  1. The aggrieving person or business may be required to provide an apology, make a physical change to the premises, make a policy change to the business procedures or provide compensation;
  1. If the aggrieved individual does not receive a satisfactory outcome, they can submit a claim to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (Court). The Commission and Court will consider whether they have factually been treated in a lesser way than a person without their defining feature would have been treated in the same situation.

Recent High Profile Complaints

Some of the recent high-profile discrimination claims are:

  • 2006: Qantas. Ordered to pay approximately $112,000 in damages and compensation for racial and disability discrimination towards a mechanical engineer of Goan decent. The employee was the subject of racial comments and discrimination based on various workers’ compensation claims for injury. Read the decision here.
  • 2010: David Jones’ Mark McInnes. The David Jones organisation was accused of fostering a culture of sexual discrimination due to not taking action to prevent or respond to complaints of sexual assault.
  • 2011: Andrew Bolt. Held to be in contravention of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) for comments made about fair-skinned Aboriginal people. Read the decision here.

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