Stories of gender discrimination in the workplace are constantly in the media. The trend of treating someone unfavourably because of their gender identity remains quite prevalent in workplaces across sectors. Females have been disproportionately represented in this category, making up 78 per cent of sex discrimination complainants according to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) between 2018 to 2019.
There are several gender stereotypes used to motivate conduct against employees, and these gender assumptions, known as ‘imputed characteristics’, may also be discrimination based on gender.
It is unlawful for a person to discriminate against another on the ground of their gender identity. This applies if the discrimination occurs because of:
- the employee’s gender identity;
- a characteristic that applies generally to a person with the same gender identity as the employee; or
- a characteristic that is generally imputed to persons with the same gender identity as the employee.
Australian workers are protected by these provisions regardless of if they are intersex or transsexual. It has also been found that sexual harassment can constitute sex discrimination. Even though harassment implies some form of repetition, generally one act of sex discrimination may be sufficient.