Section 30 of the EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ACT 1984 (Commonwealth) states that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against job applicants or employees in determining, or in the course of determining, who should be offered employment; or in the terms or conditions on which employment is offered.
Section 14 of the ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ACT 1991 (Queensland) states that a person must not discriminate in the arrangements made for deciding who should be offered work; or in the terms of work that is offered.
What equal opportunity means in the context of employment is that employers must select people for jobs based upon their skills, abilities and knowledge in relation to the demands of the job they seek.
What employers cannot do is to make employment decisions based on factors which are not related to work skills, abilities and knowledge. For example. an employment must not decide against a job applicant because of their sex, age, political beliefs, sexual preferences, marital status and ethnic origin. It is unlawful for an employer to make employment decisions in this way.
Readers are advised to check the laws in their own state or nation that relate to anti-discrimination.
Discrimination may be direct or indirect.
Direct discrimination may be defined as:
The treatment of a person less favourably, on the basis of an attribute of that person, than they would otherwise have been treated if they did not possess that attribute.
The following table provides examples of attributes:
|Gender||Being discriminated against on the basis of gender. Includes discrimination against a woman because she is pregnant.||A club may refuse to allow a woman to play a sport fearing a complaint of negligence if the mother or baby is injured.|
|Race||When a persons is treated unfairly or harassed because of their race, colour, ethnic background, ethno-religious background, descent or nationality.||Racial taunts sometimes take place on the sporting field.|
|Age||When a persons is treated unfairly or harassed because of their age - for example, because people think you are too old, too young or too middle aged.||Forcing people to retire at the old retirement age is also against the law. This is called compulsory retirement.|
|Marital Status||When a persons is treated unfairly or harassed because of their particular marital status, for example, because you are single, or married, or living in a de facto relationship.|
|Homosexual or Lesbian||When a persons is treated unfairly or harassed because they are gay or lesbian, or someone thinks they are gay or lesbian|
|Disability||When a person is treated unfairly or harassed because they have a disability, or someone thinks they have a disability. Disability includes physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, learning and emotional disorders, and any organism capable of causing disease.||Disability can also be defined as having in the body an organism causing illness or disease. In Victoria, a player with HIV-Aids won the right to rejoin an amateur football club which had excluded him on the grounds of his disease.|
|Transgender||When a persons is treated unfairly or harassed because they are a transgender, or others think they are transgender. You are counted as transgender if you live or seek to live as a member of the opposite gender (sex) to your birth gender.|
An employer decides to employ people who are over 190 cm tall, although height is not pertinent to effective performance of the work. This disadvantages women and people of Asian origin, as there are more men of non-Asian origin who can comply.
The discrimination is unlawful because the height requirement is unreasonable, there being no genuine occupational reason to justify it.
An employer requires employees to wear a uniform, including a cap, for appearance reasons, not for hygiene or safety reasons. The requirement is not directly discriminatory, but it has a discriminatory effect against people who are required by religious or cultural beliefs to wear particular headdress.