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Sex discrimination is treating people unfairly because they are either male or female. Indirect sex discrimination is treatment which appears to be equal but is unfair on certain people because of their sex. To be unlawful it must be unreasonable.

I heard an advertisement on the radio for a night club which said that women could get in for $15 while men had to pay $30. Isn't this sex discrimination?


It is an offence under the Equal Opportunity Act to advertise an intention to discriminate unless you have an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Tribunal to do so.  The advertisement you heard could therefore be discriminatory and both the club and the radio station could be liable.

Can I ask for a photo?

Yes, you can: but ask yourself if this is really a job where a person's appearance is relevant.  A photo can give information about a person's age, sex, race and sometimes disability.  Making decisions based upon any of these characteristics may leave you open to a complaint of discrimination.

I want to employ an attractive woman with four years' experience aged between 25 and 35 as a receptionist for my business. Why can't I advertise for this person if I want to?


It is not against the law to discriminate on the basis of appearance, but it is unlawful to discriminate in employment on the basis of a person's age, caring responsibilities, chosen gender, disability, marital or domestic partnership status, pregnancy, race, religious appearance or dress, sex, sexuality, or their spouse or partner's identity

When placing a job ad in the paper or online, can I specify the age and sex of the person I'm looking for?


In general, no. You should instead advertise the skills, abilities, experience or qualifications required. If an award exists which allows junior rates of pay, you may be able to advertise for a junior, but not specify their age. If you think the job can only be done by someone of a particular age or sex you may need to apply for an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Tribunal before advertising.

I saw an advertisement for lingerie on television last night which really offended me. I thought it was sexist and demeaned women. Can I complain to the Equal Opportunity Commission about this?

The Equal Opportunity Act does not cover advertisements for products or events.  It only covers employment advertisements and advertisements about the way goods and services are provided.  If you are offended by the content of product advertisements you can complain to the media outlet concerned, or to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

Can I insist upon standards of appearance, such as hairstyle or earrings?

Generally yes, provided the standards are applied equally to men and women and are clearly linked to the requirements of the business. We also encourage you to be sensitive to particular cultural dress requirements. It is unlawful to prevent someone from having appearance or wearing religious dress in accordance with their religious beliefs in work or study.

We don't accept boys in the club


Petra said that her son was refused entry to a regional callisthenics club.  She had enquired about him joining, but was told by Angela, the club's co-ordinator, "We don't accept boys in the club".

After telling Angela that she had contacted the Commission, Petra was told that boys could join but would not be welcomed, and that her child would not be able to be supervised.  Angela also said that there was nowhere for boys to change.

No conciliation conference was held. However, resolution was reached with Petra agreeing that such a change in the advertisement would be an appropriate way to settle the complaint.

It's discrimination - but you still can't join

On 28 February 2008, the Equal Opportunity Tribunal awarded Trish Colquhoun $10 000 and a public apology from the boat club that refused to let her join because she is a woman.

However, the Tribunal stated it did not have the power to compel the club to change its constitution or membership.

Equal Opportunity Commissioner, Ms Linda Matthews, said "this is the first time a case like this has been tested, we are breaking new ground".

Sex and the office

On 27 February 2008, Equal Opportunity Commissioner Linda Matthews was quoted by The Advertiser in an article about sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Later that day she was interviewed about sexual harassment in the workplace on the Alexander and Nicky Downer Afternoon Show on Adelaide radio station 5AA.

Colquhoun v SA Trailer Boat Club [2007] SAEOT 1

In 1979 Ms Colquhoun applied for membership of the SA Trailer Boat Club. Ms Colquhoun had been involved with the club since she was a child and her father was a life member. Ms Colquhoun was advised that the club was not accepting applications for female members when she applied at various times. She was told that if this policy changed she would be invited to fill the next vacancy.

In 2006 Ms Colquhoun again applied for membership and her application was unsuccessful. Ms Colquhoun understood that she had again been refused membership because of her sex.

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