Your rights: Discrimination

Discrimination law covers:

  • Complaints made to the VEOHRC and AHREOC;
  • Religious exemptions;
  • Specific workplace laws under the Fair Work Act;
  • Complaints made to the VEOHRC and AHREOC.


Complaints made to the VEOHRC and AHREOC;

A person who is discriminated against because of a particular attribute can make a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) or Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (AHREOC). You cannot make complaints to both bodies.

These attributes include:

  • sexual orientation;
  • gender identity (including, your dress, expression, transition status or use of hormone therapy);
  • intersex status;
  • HIV status;
  • marital/relationship status;
  • family responsibilities (such as co-parenting); and/or
  • lawful sexual activity (such as sex work).

Discrimination laws cover unfair treatment and unreasonable policies/rules in most areas of public life, including:

  • Education (as a student or prospective student);
  • Access to goods and services (e.g. transport, government departments, adoption agencies);
  • Accommodation (e.g. leases, terms of contracts, eviction);
  • Sports (e.g. sporting team participation);
  • Clubs (e.g. membership or access to a club); and
  • Workplaces (e.g. dismissal, promotions, transfers, training, also includes contracting).


02. Religious exemptions

Discrimination laws contain religious exemptions, which allows religious bodies/organisations and schools to discriminate against students and employees based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and lawful sexual activity. This discrimination is permitted when the religious body or school must act to conform with it’s religious beliefs or principles. This broadly allows religious organisations, service providers and schools to lawfully discriminate against LGBTIQA+ people.


03. Specific workplace laws under the Fair Work Act

Discriminatory treatment at work because of a protected attribute comes under a different set of workplace law called the ‘Fair Work Act’ (FWA). The FWA prohibits adverse action taken against an employee, prospective employee or independent contractor because of a person’s sexual orientation, sex, disability, family/caring responsibilities and marital status. These terms are not defined and less exhaustive than the attributes covered by the VEOHRC or AHREOC.

Adverse action taken by an employer or principal (if you a contractor) includes:
• Dismissal;
• Forced resignation;
• Changing their job to their disadvantage (e.g. cutting shifts); or
• Not giving them their legal entitlements.

A person can make an application to the Fair Work Commission if they believe they have been treated adversely because of a protected attribute – this is known as a ‘general protections’ application. If you believe you have been dismissed, your application must be lodged within 21 days after the dismissal took effect.

If you believe you have been dismissed or treated unfairly, speak with your union.


Your Rights

This information was prepared in 2007 and is not up to date. VGLRL cannot give personal legal or financial advice. The information we share is no substitute for professional, legal or medical advice. We strongly suggest that you approach and consult with the appropriate professionals. We recommend the Fitzroy Legal Service which has a specific legal advice service for the LGBTI community.

Fitzroy Legal Service
LGBTIQ Legal Advice Service
Every Second Thursday
6.30pm – 8pm
(03) 9419 3744
By appointment only

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