Other Types of Discrimination (political opinion & trade union activity )
Some employees experience discrimination in the workplace because of their religion or trade union activity Discriminating against employees for these reasons is also prohibited.
Discrimination is defined as treating employees differently or treating them less favourably as compared to others in the workplace. Discrimination may be committed by imposing or proposing to impose a rule, condition, requirement, policy or procedure in the workplace that will result in a disadvantage to people with particular religious beliefs or people who engage in trade union activity.
What is discrimination based on religion?
Discrimination based on an employee or prospective employee’s religion, religious affiliation, religious beliefs, religious convictions or religious activities including religious dress is unlawful. One example of discrimination is requiring a Jewish employee or a Seventh-Day Adventist to render work on the Sabbath, or prohibiting a Muslim employee praying on Friday. It may also be discriminatory to prohibit Sikh employees wearing turbans to work or female Muslim employees wearing hijab to work.
In Xiaofeng Hou v 3CW Chinese Radio ( FWC 1108 (17 February 2014) the radio show of a presenter on a Chinese language radio station was ended by the station’s general manager with an on-air announcement. She was dismissed from employment. When the presenter sought an explanation for the cancellation of her show and her dismissal, the general manager stated that it was because of her Christian religion and no other reason. The Court found that the dismissal was religious discrimination and the presenter was awarded compensation.
In Walsh v St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland (No. 2) ( QADT 32 (12 December 2008)a woman was elected President of a local St. Vincent De Paul Society group, a Catholic social welfare organisation. She held that position for three years rendering volunteer work which was not paid. From the start of her membership in the society and prior to being named its head, she informed the local group that although she was a Christian, she was not a Catholic. She was told by several members of the Society’s State executive that they felt uncomfortable with her as President of a local chapter. She was given three choices: convert to Catholicism, resign as the local chapter’s president or leave the Society.
The Court ruled that the local Catholic social welfare organisation was not considered a “religious body” that was exempt from the prohibition against discrimination on religious grounds. Catholicism was not a genuine occupational requirement of the position as the spiritual aspect of the position was only a minor part. Besides, she had held the position for three years before her religion became an issue. She was awarded $27,500 for the pain and suffering and for medical expenses incurred in treating the depressive illness she suffered consequent to the discrimination.
What is discrimination based on trade union activity?
It is unlawful to discriminate based on a person’s trade union activity, this includes refusing to hire a person, dismissing a person or injuring the employee.
In David Kinsela v Sunferries Magnetic Island Pty Ltd (29 October 2004) a ferryboat captain was dismissed from work because as a union delegate, he opposed a work agreement proposed by his employer. The court found that his dismissal was an adverse action that discriminated against him for his union activity. He was reinstated to his job and awarded lost wages.
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