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Equality and freedom from discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying are fundamental human rights that belong to all Australians, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Industrial Relations Claims is proud to offer support and assistance to members of the LGBTIQ community who are facing sexual harassment, discrimination, unfair dismissal, bullying or other workplace issues.

We believe in equality, social justice and human rights for all Australians, including members of the LGBTIQ community.

Discrimination

In general, it is against the law for you to be treated unfairly because you are gay or lesbian or transgender, or if someone thinks that you are gay or lesbian or transgender. 

It is also unlawful if you are treated less favourably because you have a friend, relative or work colleague who is gay, lesbian or transgender, or someone thinks that they are gay or lesbian or transgender.

More specifically, you cannot be treated less favourably based on your:

  • sexual orientation 
  • gender identity (including your dress, expression, transition status or use of hormone therapy)
  • intersex status
  • HIV status
  • marital or relationship status
  • family responsibilities (such as co-parenting)
  • lawful sexual activity (paid sex work)

Unlawful discrimination can happen:

  • at work (including applying for jobs, promotions, transfers, and workplace training)
  • in education (involving students over the age of 16, at school, university, TAFE or colleges)
  • when applying for accommodation (including renting and leasing properties like homes, caravans and motel rooms)
  • when accessing goods and services (including transport, government, legal, trade and medical services)
  • when participating in sports and accessing clubs (in some circumstances)

Discrimination in the workplace

Discrimination that happens at work comes under a set of laws called the Fair Work Act.

It is unlawful for someone to take adverse action against you because of an attribute like your sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, family responsibilities or relationship status.

It can happen if you are an employee, a prospective employee applying for a job, an independent contractor, or if you are on work experience.

Adverse action can include things like:

  • being sacked
  • being forced to resign
  • changing your job to your disadvantage (like cutting your shifts or hours or work)
  • not giving you your legal entitlements (like annual leave, or sick or carer’s leave)

If you have suffered adverse action because of an attribute like your sexual orientation, you will be eligible to make a general protections claim, and may be entitled to substantial compensation.

If you have been dismissed from employment, you only have 21 days to file a claim, so it is important to seek expert legal advice immediately.

HIV status discrimination

Both federal and state legislation make it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of an impairment (disability).

In most states, including Queensland, an impairment includes the presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness or disease, such as hepatitis, AIDS and HIV.

Disclosure

If you are living with HIV, you do not have to tell your employer, or prospective employer, that you are HIV positive – unless you work in healthcare or the defence forces.

If your employer asks you about your HIV status, and you do not work in healthcare or the defence forces, then you have no obligation to tell them.

It is unlawful for you to be treated unfairly, bullied or harassed, or dismissed from employment because of your HIV status.

If you are a sex worker in Queensland, you do not have to disclose your HIV status, however you are not permitted to work in a licensed brothel.  You can only work as a sole operator.

If you work in healthcare as a doctor or nurse or dentist, and perform Exposure Prone Procedures, then you must know and disclose your HIV status.

If you apply to join the Australian Defence Forces, you will be tested for HIV.  If you test positive you will not be permitted to join the ADF.

If you work in aviation as a pilot or air traffic controller, you are required to undergo regular medical assessments.  If you are HIV positive, your clearance to work will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, if you are applying for insurance, disability and death cover, or income protection insurance, you are required to disclose your HIV status.

An insurance company can legally ask for this information as part of their risk assessment process.

Religious exemptions

Unfortunately, discrimination laws currently allow for some exemptions which allow religious bodies and organisations, including schools, to discriminate against students and employees based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and lawful sexual activity.

This discrimination is permitted when the religious body or school claims that it is acting to conform to its religious beliefs or principles.

Broadly speaking, this allows religious schools, service providers and schools to legally discriminate against LGTBIQ people.

If you have experienced discrimination from a religious organisation, you should seek urgent legal advice to discuss your options.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any behaviour that is uninvited or unwelcome, that is sexual in nature, which offends, humiliates or intimidates.

It can involve touching, or staring or leering, inappropriate comments, displaying offensive messages, posters or screen savers, or repeated requests for dates or sex.

It can also involve messages and images sent via text message or on social media.

The behaviour does not have to be repeated to be unlawful.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 83 per cent of people who identify as gay or lesbian, and 90 per cent of people who identify as bisexual, have experienced workplace sexual harassment over the course of their lifetimes, compared to 70 per cent of their heterosexual colleagues.

WATCH: SEXUAL HARASSMENT – IT HAPPENS TO MEN TOO

Bullying

The Fair Work Act states that a worker is bulled, if, while at work, an individual or group repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards that worker, and that unreasonable behaviour creates a risk to that worker’s health and safety.

Bullying can take the form of verbal, physical, psychological or social abuse by an individual or group of people in the workplace.

Serious bullying can be considered a crime and may require police action including a personal safety intervention order.

Victimisation

Victimisation happens when a person subjects, or threatens to subject, another person with adverse action because that person has made a complaint about discrimination or sexual harassment, or otherwise asserted their rights under discrimination law.

Victimisation is serious and can become a police matter if threats of physical violence are made, or damage to property occurs.

Vilification

Sexuality vilification happens when a person, or group of people, incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of another person, or group of people, based on their sexual orientation, by a public act.

That hatred can be spread publicly in a number of ways, including by verbal abuse, or in writing, or displayed on signage, or posted on the internet and social media.

Vilification is against the law, and in some cases it can also be a criminal offence.

If you believe that you have been the victim of sexuality vilification, it is important that you seek urgent legal advice.

WATCH: A RECENT CASE OF HOMOSEXUAL VILIFICATION


How we can help

If you have experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, victimisation or vilification on the basis of your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, our team of employment lawyers and industrial advocates at Industrial Relations Claims can help.

We can represent you in the Human Rights Commission, the Fair Work Commission, the Industrial Relations Commission, or any other relevant court or tribunal.

We are specialists at resolving disputes, winning court cases and negotiating substantial compensation for our clients.

Make no mistake, we will fight for you until we achieve the outcome that you are looking for.

To discuss your options and to find out how we can help you, please call our consultants today on 1300 045 466 or click here to register for a quick call back.

 


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