What is workplace discrimination?

Workplace discrimination refers to the unfair or unequal treatment of employees or job applicants based on certain protected characteristics. In Australia, workplace discrimination is illegal and governed by federal and state laws. The key federal legislation addressing workplace discrimination in Australia is the Fair Work Act 2009, which includes provisions related to workplace rights, responsibilities, and protections. Additionally, the Australian Human Rights Commission administers and enforces several laws related to discrimination, including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and the Age Discrimination Act 2004.

Australian law protects several key characteristics from discrimination, including:


It is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their age, whether they are younger or older.


Discrimination based on gender, including sexual harassment, is prohibited.

Race & ethnicity

Discrimination based on a person's race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, or immigrant status is unlawful.


Employers must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. It is also illegal to discriminate against them.

Sexual orientation

Discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation is prohibited.

Gender identity

Discrimination against individuals based on their gender identity, including transgender individuals, is unlawful.

Pregnancy & family responsibilities

It is illegal to discriminate against employees or job applicants due to pregnancy, family responsibilities, or caring responsibilities.


Discrimination based on a person's religious beliefs or lack thereof is unlawful.

Political opinion

Discrimination based on a person's political opinion or activity is also prohibited.

Social origin

Discrimination based on a person's social origin or social status is not allowed.

Australian employers have a legal obligation to offer equal employment opportunities and to maintain a safe, inclusive, and respectful work environment for all employees. They must also take steps to prevent and address discrimination, harassment, and bullying in the workplace. If an individual believes they have experienced workplace discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission or seek legal remedies through the courts. It's important to note that there may be variations in state and territory laws as well, so individuals should consult with the relevant authorities and legal experts for guidance on their specific situation.

If you'd like to learn more about employment standards and guidelines, click the button below to read our article on equal employment opportunities.

What is workplace discrimination?

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