Student booklet

Discrimination and sexual harassment at work

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Discrimination is against the law!

There are laws in Queensland that protect people from being treated unfairly or discriminated against.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination that is against the law happens when you are treated worse than someone else because of how you look or behave or because you belong to a certain group.


Sometimes people make assumptions about you because you are a member of a particular group or because you look or behave a certain way.

They are not always correct. For example:

  • Old people can't drive.
  • Blonde women are dumb.
  • White people can't dance.

These are stereotypes. Stereotypes are usually unfair or negative. If these stereotypes lead to you being treated unfairly or bullied it could be discrimination.

Discrimination can include:

  • teasing/making fun of someone because of their religious beliefs;
  • making threats against someone because of their sexuality;
  • leaving people out because they have a disability;
  • posting nasty comments on Facebook about someone because of their race.

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The law

The law in Queensland says that people must not treat you unfairly because of your:

Impairment: You are a person with a disability which also covers mental illness and disease.

Race: You or someone in your family is from another country, or  you are Aboriginal.

Sexuality: You choose a partner who is the same sex.

Family Responsibilities: You have family members to care for.

Age: You are too old or too young.

Relationship status: You are married, single or defacto.

Parental status: You have children or you do not have children.

Sex: You are a man or a woman.

Pregnancy: You are pregnant.

Religious belief or activity: You have certain religious beliefs.

Discrimination law also protects you from other things.

You have a RESPONSIBILITY to treat others fairly.

You have a RIGHT to be treated fairly.

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Discrimination at work

All workers have a right to be treated fairly by their boss and co-workers.

It is everybody's responsibility at work to treat each other with respect. It is against the law to treat a person unfairly in any area of work because of things like race, religion, sex or age.

This applies to:

  • getting a job;
  • your work conditions;
  • your opportunities for training/promotion;
  • your dismissal from work.

The workplace brings together lots of people who may not have anything in common other than their jobs.

Most of the time you will get along with each other and you will be able to put aside your differences.

When you don't get along at work it could lead to unacceptable behaviour such as discriminatory treatment or harassment.

The law applies to all types of workers, not just paid workers, and includes:

  • full/part time;
  • apprentices and trainees;
  • work experience;
  • volunteers.

Examples of workplace discrimination can include:

  • being paid less than someone who is doing the same job as you because of your race;
  • giving girls all the cleaning jobs;
  • being qualified for a job but not getting it because of your age.

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Applying for a job

Someone who is considering you for a job will want to get to know you a bit.

They might ask about your school, family or interests. However, employers should not ask questions that could be used to discriminate against you unlawfully.

Personal questions might influence decisions about your application and could lead to unlawful discrimination.

If it does, you have a right to complain.

Employers can ask relevant questions, such as:

  • Are you able to work overtime at short notice?
  • Are you able to perform the specific duties of this job?
  • Are you able to travel?

When employers advertise a job they should be looking for the best person. When you apply for a job you should be judged on your skills and abilities. Personal matters should have nothing to do with your ability to do the job.

Examples of questions that might be used to discriminate include:

  • Do you want to have children?  
  • What nationality are you?
  • Do you have to wear that headscarf?
  • Do you have a girlfriend?

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Sexual harassment is against the law.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It can happen anywhere, not just at work.

Sexual harassment can be:

  • teasing, calling names or making rude sign;
  • sending nude pictures or offensive messages by Facebook, email or texting;
  • spreading rumours about someone's sex life;
  • telling dirty jokes or making suggestive sexual comments;
  • touching or deliberately brushing up against someone.

Anyone can be sexually harassed but it happens more to girls than boys.

You have a right to work in a place free from sexual harassment.

Is my employer responsible?


Your employer, as well as the people who sexually harass you, can be liable for what happens to you.

They should provide training to managers and employees and have clear procedures in place if something does happen.

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What can you do?

You do not have to put up with unfair treatment at work!!

If you feel you are being treated unfairly or sexually harassed at work you can:

  • talk to your parents, teachers or other supportive adults;
  • approach your manager or supervisor at work;
  • talk to the person you have an issue with;
  • ask someone to come with you to talk to one of the above people;
  • make a written complaint at work;
  • make a written complaint to an outside organisation such as the Anti-Discrimination  Commission Queensland.

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Who can help?

Your workplace should have a complaint system where they will investigate your problem, talk to the person you are concerned about and try to fix the problem.

There are also different organisations that can assist workers in different ways.

You can lodge your complaint with some organisations and they will assist to resolve it.

There are other organisations that can help with workplace issues:

  • Fair Work Infoline: 131394
  • Fair and Safe Work Queensland: 1300 369 915

If you need some extra support, there are many services for young people available. Some of these are listed below:

Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland: 1300 130 670

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