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Under the Fair Work Act, an employer must not dismiss you because of your:
There are some exceptions to this rule. An employer may be able to dismiss you if:
Each state has its own anti-discrimination laws and there are also Australian anti-discrimination laws. For example, the Commonwealth Age Discrimination Act, or the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act. Some sorts of discrimination are not included in NSW or Federal laws. For example it is not unlawful to discriminate on the basis of political opinion or religion in NSW or under Australian law. Also, each of these laws give exceptions so that action that may look like discrimination will be lawful.
For example, it may be an inherent requirement of a position that you have certain physical abilities (like being able to do heavy lifting).
Employers usually have to make reasonable adjustments if your ability to do a job changes. However, this is a complicated area and you should get
legal advice if you are in this situation.
Churches, religious groups and organisations (like religious charities or schools) may be able to discriminate if this is done as part of their religion.
If you were dismissed from your job, you may be able to make a number of different claims against your employer. Before you make any claims or applications, you should get
legal advice to help you work out what is the right option for you. This will include working out whether the discrimination is covered by one of the exceptions or not.
If someone dismissed you for a discriminatory reason, it is possible to make a general protections application to the Fair Work Commission (the Commission).
If you were dismissed and you want to make a general protections dismissal application to the Commission, you must do so within 21 days of the date you were dismissed.
The Commission may accept late applications, but usually only in exceptional cases.
The Commission will hold a conference to try and settle the dispute. If this does not end the problem, you can apply to the Federal Circuit Court to ask for an order.
The Federal Circuit Court can order that:
Section 351 of the Fair Work Act is the section that protects you from discrimination. When filling out your general protections application form for the Commission, you will need to refer to this section of the Act and you will need to state the ground of discrimination, for example, 'carer's responsibilities'.
Angela worked for a company that provides technical support to small to medium size businesses.
She had been on maternity leave and recently had a meeting with her boss to discuss her return to work. Angela asked to work part time as she only has child care for her baby 3 days per week. Her manager said this would not be possible. He told her that technical support officers must work full time and if she could not do this she could consider herself dismissed. Angela thinks that the job could be done part-time.
Angela's manager must not discriminate against her because of her family responsibilities. Angela also has a right to request flexible working arrangements. Angela should get legal advice about whether to make a general protections application.
This topic only deals with dismissals. However, it is possible to make a general protections application even if you have not been dismissed. You should get
legal advice if you have been dismissed or are having problems at work. You may have other options, such as:
For answers to commonly asked questions, see
What are general protections? - Frequently Asked Questions.