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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.

Manager stripped of responsibilities after returning from maternity leave


Deborah worked for a building company as a manager for several years before falling pregnant. She took maternity leave, but upon returning to work was told that her position had changed. All management responsibilities had been removed from her job description. Deborah felt that this was unfair, and spoke to her manager about it. She was told not to take it personally but her priorities had changed.

Following initiation of the complaint, Deborah's employer entered into discussions with her. They negotiated a new job description for her, which Deborah accepted.

Husband charged, wife sacked

Kerry worked as a cafe assistant. Her employer heard that her husband had been charged by Police over growing an illegal drug. Shortly after this she claimed that her employment was terminated for misconduct, and that she was told by a Centrelink employee that she was dismissed because of "guilt by association". Kerry lodged a complaint alleging that she had been discriminated against because of the identity of her spouse.

The Commission liaised with the parties to explore a conciliated outcome, and eventually the parties agreed to settle, without any admission of liability. The cafe agreed to provide Kerry with a positive job reference and to pay her $1,000.

Disabled partner leads to cleaner's sacking

Chelsea was offered a cleaning job, and was asked to stay in the business’s accommodation. Chelsea's partner, Rick, was on a disability pension due to a bipolar condition and epilepsy. It was agreed that Rick would do grounds maintenance to cover the costs of accommodation. But she felt that her manager took a dislike to Rick, started criticising his mental abilities, and called him a "peabrain.”  Eventually, the manager told her that because it wasn’t working out with Rick he was giving her notice.

The manager offered to give Chelsea a positive reference. Chelsea refused this, and requested $590 for injury to feelings. With no admission of liability, the manager agreed to do this, and the complaint was settled.

Back from maternity leave to a dead-end, backwater job


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.

Refused maternity leave for second pregnancy


Eleni worked for a business consultant. She went on maternity leave but, before she was due to return, she told her employers that she was pregnant again and would only be returning to work for ten weeks. She requested an extension to her maternity leave, but didn't get a response from them straight away. She emailed seven more times asking what was happening, and each time she was told that the manager was waiting on a response from HR.

During conciliation, the complaint was settled when the company agreed to give Eleni a positive statement of service, and pay her $9,750 for general damages for hurt feelings.

Worker on maternity leave told she could only return full time

Paulina was employed full time by an engineering company. She became pregnant and applied for six months’ maternity leave. She requested a return to work based on three days per week, and was told that this would be seriously considered and details worked out upon her return. However, just before returning to work, Paulina was told that she could only return to a full-time position, and that if she did not accept this she would be made redundant.

As a result of discussions between the parties before the matter came to conciliation, Paulina's advocate and the company agreed that they would pay her $10,000, give her a letter of apology, and review their policy regarding parental leave.

Mother refused reduced hours at work to collect her child from school

Sue worked for a state government agency. Her daughter attended school, and its out-of-school hours care program was full, so parents could be only offered a maximum of three nights per week. Sue asked her manager if she could finish early two days a week to enable her to collect her child, but she was told that it was not possible.

Following negotiations between the parties, the employer agreed to allow Sue to finish early on two days each week. The employer also said they would attempt to look for a suitablly-funded position that supports reduced working hours. On her part, Sue agreed that if her employer was unable to negotiate flexible working hours with another business unit or agency, and that unit or agency can provide reasonable justification for not being able to accept this, she will accept the position.

Sacked for being pregnant and unmarried


Denise was eleven weeks pregnant when she started working for a religious organisation. Two weeks later, she told the organisation that she was pregnant. Her manager asked whether she had set a wedding date, because she was unmarried. When she said she hadn't, she was told that she should have a wedding date because it didn't look good working for a church organisation and not being married. Her employment was terminated.

When the organisation was contacted after Denise made a complaint to the Commission, they said that they would offer her an apology and a job reference. She was satisfied with this response, and the complaint was concluded.

Jokes in the workplace

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Aired on: 
Radio Adelaide

Equal Opportunity Commission staff member Ian Law interviewed by Mike Stock about crude and offensive jokes in workplace, including work emails”

Same-sex couple refused hotel manager jobs

Kevin and Todd, in a same-sex relationship, applied for a position as a Hotel Managing Couple for a hotel in an Adelaide suburb.  The hotel owner appeared keen to appoint them, but cancelled the interview at the last minute making a comment about "wanting a woman behind the desk".  Todd had flown from Sydney for the interview.

At conciliation, the hotel owner agreed to pay for Todd's flight from Sydney.
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