What is discrimination?

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual preference
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction
  • social origin.

What is ‘adverse action’?

Adverse actions include:

  • firing an employee
  • not giving an employee legal entitlements such as pay or leave
  • changing an employee’s job to their disadvantage
  • treating an employee differently than others
  • not hiring someone
  • offering a potential employee different (and unfair) terms and conditions for the job, compared to other employees.


  • being rejected from a job during the hiring process
  • being offered a lower wage or less leave than other employees in the same role with the same experience
  • being verbally or physically abused by an employer or co-worker
  • being isolated or left out by co-workers or managers
  • being paid less than others doing the same job and who have the same experience
  • being given more unpleasant or difficult duties than others in the same role
  • not being given proper equipment or facilities
  • having limited or no opportunities for promotion, transfer or training.

When can discrimination occur?

Discrimination can happen:

  • to someone applying for a job
  • to a new employee who hasn’t started work
  • at any time during employment.

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Page last updated: 13 Mar 2013