Equal opportunity law applies to full time, part time, casual, contract and voluntary work.
It covers all stages of employment, from job advertisements, applications and offers of employment to promotions, training, transfers and dismissal.
Radio transcript from the Commissioner's interview with Annette Marner on 639ABC on 21 May 2013
Annette Marner: … Anne Gale … thanks for coming on … what do you see, do you hear complaints, I’ve certainly heard over the years that people have alleged there is a lot of discrimination towards older workers, what do you hear?
Rebecca worked as a nurse. She had surgery that led to nerve damage, leaving her without lateral movement in her arm. Since then, however, she worked full time for years without a problem. But the nurse manager told her that there had been complaints about Rebecca's performance, concerning her not being able to carry meal trays for patients. Soon afterwards, she was told that her next shift had been cancelled. When she tried to negotiate different duties, she was unsuccessful. She was given no more shifts.
Although the hospital denied they had unlawfully discriminated against Rebecca, they agreed to attend a conciliation conference. During this meeting, Rebecca asked for $15,000 for injury to feelings, and a larger amount for lost income. The hospital offered $5,000, which Rebecca agreed to and the matter resolved.
Zoe worked for a health care service, providing personal homecare and domestic assistance. She claimed she was regularly subjected to sexual harassment. A client grabbed at her to expose her breasts, asked her to show them to him - and he asked her if she knew anyone who would provide sex for money,which she took as a proposition to her. Zoe stopped working for him and told her manager. The manager asked her to email her complaint to him, but as she did not have an email account she did not do this.
The matter was conciliated with the health service offering to review their employee procedures; they also provided Zoe with an apology for feeling sexually harassed and unsupported by the organisation, and $15,000 for her medical costs.
Sarah worked at a spare parts wholesaler, and from day one she felt subjected to sexual harassment. She said that staff made hourly comments about her breasts and bottom, and she was propositioned for sex by them on numerous occasions. She asked the manager to remove pictures of naked women from the office walls, but he refused. She grew increasingly uncomfortable working there. The company sent out explicit pornographic calendars to customers, and she witnessed male members of staff watching pornographic movies at work.
During conciliation, the company offered Sarah a positive letter of referral, and paid her $3,900 in general damages and hurt to feelings. They also undertook to review the company's management policies, practises and procedures relating to management of HR issues and duty of care.
Robin was a male nurse, who worked for an Adelaide-based nursing agency. On more than one occasion, Robin had night shifts cancelled at short notice because the agency had a policy that they will not allow male nurses to work night shift without a female being present.
After he lodged a complaint of gender discrimination with the Commission, Robin's employer confirmed the policy. The reason they gave was that they had to abide by their client’s wishes regarding lone male nurses working at night.
The matter was settled in the conference, with the agency offering to train their managers in equal opportunity laws, and review their practises regarding employing staff to shifts. They also offered to pay Robin $500 for general damages.
Stephanie applied for a position as a bar-worker at a city restaurant. After successfully completing a trial shift that lasted four hours, she didn't hear back from the restaurant. When she rang them, she was told the position was filled by someone taller.
The complaint was settled by the restaurant offering an apology to Stephanie, for any anxiety or offense they may have caused in making comments about her height.
Harry contacted a regional labour hire agency about getting work as a grapevine pruner. First, he was asked if he took drugs. He answered, "No." Then he was asked how old he was. Harry answered: "A very fit sixty years old." He was then told that he was too old to apply, and the agency hung up on him.
Harry made a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission.
Through conciliation, the company agreed to interview him. Harry was happy with their response, and this settled the complaint.
Imogen worked in a suburban pet store. After working there for about six months, she noticed that her boss began cutting Imogen's shifts and taking on younger workers to work these shifts. Then, she had an operation on her foot and took two weeks off work to recover. Upon Imogen's return to work, the boss accused her of being unreliable for taking this time off. She felt that she could not longer tolerate this treatment at work, and resigned.
Two weeks after Imogen made her complaint, a conciliation conference date was set.
At this meeting, the store manager agreed to provide Imogen with a letter of apology, to reassess his management style to prevent any reoccurrence of the problem, and to pay her $600 compensation for hurt to feelings and general damages.
Christine worked as a rehabilitation coordinator for a domiciliary care service. About to return from maternity leave, she contacted her manager about returning part time, which was agreed to before she went on leave. But she was now told by her manager that she could not work part time if she stayed in her previous role; instead, she would be moved to a part time ‘Service Coordinator’ role in a part time capacity. Christine saw this is as a backwards step, limiting her career development opportunities and becoming de-skilled.
As a result of conciliation, the service looked again and found a position in a centre closer to where Christine lived. They also agreed to build her management and leadership skills in her part time position, and give her the right to return to her former position when she was able to work full time.
Originally submitted on 28 September, 2011 - 00:00. Last updated on 30 September, 2011 - 09:36.