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Payout over skin-colour shop slur

Article by Julian Swallow, from The Advertiser, July 18, 2011

AN Aboriginal teacher refused shop service and a woman who lost shifts after telling her boss she was pregnant have won compensation through the Equal Opportunity Commission.

The cases are among 70 recently handled by the commission, which deals with discrimination based on disability, race, gender, age and sexual harassment. Acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner Anne Burgess told The Advertiser the number of complaints had increased slightly over the past year, and that most cases were work-related.

"They're usually 60 per cent employment-based and 30 per cent goods and services," she said.

Suburban cafe worker Kimberley complained because she stopped getting shifts after advising her boss she was pregnant.

The cafe owner told the commission that no further casual work was offered to Kimberley because of her unsatisfactory work performance. But after a conciliation process, the owner gave Kimberley a written apology and agreed to implement policies in relation to pregnant staff. Kimberley was also paid $2000.

In another case, an Aboriginal teacher, Michelle, was subjected to a racial slur and refused service at a large regional supermarket.

When she complained to the manager, the shop assistant said: "I couldn't see her because of the colour of her skin". In response to her complaint, the store investigated the matter and provided letters of apology from both the shop assistant and the manager. At conciliation, the store agreed to provide discrimination training to all staff and pay Michelle $1500 in compensation.

Ms Burgess said the laws send "a very firm message from government about what is acceptable behaviour".

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