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Frequently Asked Questions

We have formulated a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive at the Equal Opportunity Commission. For your convenience, we have separated them into the following categories:

The way we deal with discrimination is set out in the Equal Opportunity Act. We can only become involved when a complaint is made in writing and our initial assessment is that it raises concerns about unlawful discrimination. We are not an advocacy service that can intervene on your behalf. Our role is to provide an impartial, unbiased service with the intention of helping both sides negotiate a resolution.

We can help if you were dismissed because of unlawful discrimination or harassment. If not, you should seek advice from another agency. If you want reinstatement, it is important that you act quickly because strict time limits (21 days) apply for unfair dismissal through the Fair Work Commission.

There is no cost in making a complaint of discrimination. If you choose to use your own private legal advisor, this may incur costs.

A complaint about something that happened can be made within 12 months of when it happened. Late complaints can be accepted in some cases. Contact us for more information.

Once you lodge a complaint you will receive a letter of acknowledgement within a few days. From there, straightforward complaints can usually be resolved within three months, while complex complaints can take longer. The length of time it takes to resolve a complaint often depends on the ability of all sides to negotiate and find a solution to the problem.

No. Not allowing female staff to wear trousers is sex discrimination.

A blanket requirement that all male staff be clean shaven may discriminate against some people. It is unlawful to prevent someone from having appearance or wearing religious dress in accordance with their religious beliefs in work or study. For example, some Sikh men do not shave in accordance with religious beliefs. Similarly, requiring men to keep their hair cut short may result in sex discrimination.

Yes, you can in most cases. Tattoos are not specifically covered by equal opportunity laws. However, it is important to note that for some racial groups, tattoos may hold particular cultural significance (e.g., Maoris).

In general, you can. Any restrictions on the wearing of earrings and other jewellery should be applied equally to both men and women. However, allowances need to be made for people who wear adornments of religious significance - for example, bangles worn by Sikh men, or crucifixes worn by Christians.

No. There is no compulsory retirement age in South Australia.  Forcing staff to retire at 65 is now prohibited by age discrimination laws.

No. Dismissing a junior or reducing their hours as they get older and their hourly rate increases can lead to a complaint of age discrimination being made against you.

Not unless they are no longer able to perform the duties of the job.  Even then, you should confirm whether reasonable adjustments could be made to allow them to continue to perform their work.

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

It is an offence under the Equal Opportunity Act to advertise employment or goods and services for sale in a discriminatory way, unless you have an exemption from the South Australian Employment Tribunal or are using a special measure.  Advertisements like this usually indicate that a special need has been identified to provide employment or services for a particular disadvantaged group in the community.

You should describe the range of skills, experience and necessary qualifications you require, and use wording such as 'demonstrated experience in...' or 'proven experience in...', rather than the number of years experience.

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.

Questions asked should be relevant to the job. Discrimination on the grounds of marital status, pregnancy and caring responsibilities is unlawful. Questions such as these may leave you open to complaints of discrimination.

This is a matter for the applicant and the agency/provider to discuss to firstly understand if the employer does need to know and why and, secondly, to reach an agreement on the information to be provided to the employer.

Questions seeking information on whether the disability will affect their ability to do the job, and what, if any, additional support or work place adjustments are required, can be asked so you can obtain relevant information which allows you to judge the person’s actual skills and abilities.

Yes, provided the tests are used only to assess the person's ability to perform the key tasks of the job. To do this, it helps to provide the medical examiner with an outline of the particular job requirements.

Employers should be clear about what they expect employees to do. It may be difficult for some small businesses to write a job description for each employee, but it is useful to be clear about their role and what you expect of them.

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. The best person for the job may be a 24 year old man with three years' experience. Any suitably qualified person should be able to apply.

Reducing a person's hours or changing their conditions of work because of their age could result in a complaint of age discrimination being made against you.

It is better to ask whether they have any existing or prior injuries that would affect their ability to do the job. This is because a job applicant who answers 'yes' to this question and is refused employment, could make a complaint of disability discrimination.

You may be, depending upon the instructions you give to the recruitment consultant, and who is responsible for the actions which are thought to be discriminatory.

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 South Australian Employment Tribunal before advertising.

It's different if you are advertising for someone to work for you, but the work is not in connection with a business that you run - for example, if you are seeking someone to babysit your children or teach you to play the piano. In these situations, discrimination law does not apply.

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.

Yes, but only if the decision to fire a worker is unfair and discriminatory. In other words, if their employment is terminated based on personal characteristics, like age, caring responsibilities, chosen gender, disability, marital or domestic partnership status, pregnancy, race, religious appearance or dress, sex, sexuality, spouse or partner's identity.

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.

Under South Australia's Equal Opportunity Act, only certain types of discrimination based on personal characteristics is against the law. These personal characteristics include age, association with a child (in customer service), caring responsibilities, chosen gender, disability, marital or domestic partnership status, pregnancy, race, religious appearance or dress (in work or study), sex, sexuality, spouse or partner's identity. Sexual harassment is also unlawful.

However, many forms of discrimination are not covered. For example, political affiliation and irrelevant criminal record are not covered by South Australian law, but are covered federally and in some Australian states and territories.

If you are not sure about whether the unfair treatment you have experienced is against the law, contact us to discuss your situation and what options you have to deal with it.

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