Complaints about discrimination in employment and occupation

You can make a complaint if you have been treated unfairly at work.

This could include being refused a job, being dismissed from employment, being denied training opportunities, missing out on a promotion or receiving less favourable working conditions or terms of employment.

Discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, pregnancy, marital status and family responsibilities is covered under the Sex Discrimination Act . Other federal laws provide protection against discrimination because of your age, disability and medical record and race.

In addition, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (AHRC Act) allows you to make a complaint about unfair treatment, discrimination, harassment or bullying in employment because of your:

The AHRC Act covers discrimination in employment and occupation in both the private and public sectors. Here are some examples of the complaints we receive:

Fatimah applied for a job in a retail outlet. During the interview the employer asked whether she was Muslim and would need ‘time off for prayers’. Fatimah did not get the job and believes it was because if her religion.

Louise is an organiser for the workplace union. She has been told she will not get any more overtime because she put up notices about a union meeting at work.

Richard applied for a job in a call centre but was unsuccessful after a criminal record check showed he had a conviction for drink driving six months ago.

Bill says his workmates call him ‘queenie’ at work and talk in a ‘camp’ tone around him because they found out he is a same sex relationship.

Complaints lodged under the AHRC Act can be investigated and, if appropriate, resolved through conciliation. If conciliation is unsuccessful or inappropriate – and if the Australian Human Rights Commission finds that you have been discriminated against – then we can prepare a report of the complaint, including recommendations for action, for the Attorney General. The report may be tabled in Parliament.

It is important to note that discrimination under the AHRC Act is not unlawful – instead, it is regarded as unfair conduct. Unlike the other anti-discrimination laws that the Commission has statutory responsibilities under, you can not apply to have your complaint heard in court if conciliation is unsuccessful.

Information about making a complaint is available in our plain language Guide to Discrimination in Employment and Occupation under the AHRC Act

Find out more:

Contact us

For more information, contact the Infoline on 1300 656 419 (local call) or 02 9284 9888. You can also send us an email at complaintsinfo@humanrights.gov.au.