Discrimination is to distinguish, single out or make a distinction between someone and others because of a certain characteristic of that person. When discrimination happens in the workplace by employers, co-workers and other people who engage with the workplace, such as agents, contract workers and partners, it is considered workplace discrimination.
The types of characteristics that are protected from discrimination are:
- Marital status.
- National origin.
- Sexual orientation.
Categories of workplace discrimination
The broad categories that workplace discrimination falls into are direct and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination is when a person is treated worse or less favourably because of one of the characteristics listed above.
Indirect discrimination might be when a condition is applied at the workplace that one group can comply with, but another might not be able to. An example of indirect workplace discrimination might be requiring involvement in an activity that one religion can’t or wouldn’t engage in.
Specific behaviours that can amount to discrimination
Some specific behaviours that can amount to discrimination are:
- Offensive and unwanted sexual behaviour, particularly when it amounts to sexual harassment.
- Intimidating, offensive or humiliating conduct.
- Treating an individual adversely after they have raised a complaint of discrimination against the employer.
- Treating someone poorly or adversely affecting someone’s employment because they are on maternity leave.
The majority of Australia’s workplace discrimination laws have been developed from international human rights guarantees and are generally enforced at the level of your State or Territory.
If you witness or are the victim of workplace discrimination, your first move should be to look after your physical and mental safety and then become familiar with your workplace discrimination policy. This policy should detail the appropriate steps to address the issue. If you are unable to identify the related policy, you could speak with Human Resources or a manager not involved in the discrimination.