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Employers' responsibilities

All employers are legally obliged to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace and when hiring or dismissing staff.

Under state and federal law, discrimination is treating people unfairly because of particular personal characteristics or because they belong to a certain group.

In South Australia, it is unlawful to treat people unfairly because of a person's age, caring responsibilities, chosen gender, disability, marital or domestic partnership status, pregnancy, race, religious appearance or dress, sex, sexuality, spouse or partner's identity.

It is also against the law to sexually harass people or to victimise them because they have complained about discrimination or harassment.

Direct and indirect discrimination

Discrimination can be direct or indirect.

Indirect discrimination is treatment which seems to be equal but is unfair on certain people because of a particular personal characteristic. For it to be unlawful, it must also be unreasonable.

Example - Indirect discrimination

A factory announced that staff with ten continuous years' service would get a pay rise. More women than men had interrupted their service to have children, so fewer women got the rise. The female staff could claim the factory had indirectly discriminated against them.

Vicarious liability

As an employer, you are responsible for your staff if they harass or discriminate against others. If you can't show that you have taken reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment, then you can be held responsible, even if you were not directly involved. This is known as viacarious liability.

For more information on vicarious liability and taking reasonable steps, use the links below.

Other laws

South Australian employers have responsibilities under other state and federal laws such as the occupational health and safety acts, the Fair Work Act 1994 (SA) and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Under these laws you have obligations for wages and conditions, workplace safety, unfair dismissal and workplace bullying.

Related information
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