BlandsLaw - Blog posts from anti-discrimination
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Stereotypes affecting mature aged workers

Despite anti-discrimination legislation and protection under the Fair Work Act (FWA), discrimination against mature aged workers is a prevalent and ongoing issue within Australia.

 

 

 

 

While many older workers feel ‘shut out’ from recruitment entirely, discrimination within the workplace itself can take many forms, such as:

  • Segregation, isolation and bullying
  • Denial of flexible working arrangements
  • Being overlooked for promotion, skill development and training

This is largely attributed to the fact that poor management and workplace culture creates a platform for negative stereotypes and assumptions to flourish. These include that mature aged workers are not able to adapt to change, have poor health and will take unnecessary personal leave, have difficulty learning new knowledge and technological skills and are frequently labeled as a “poor cultural fit”.

 

Many of these issues were raised in a recent case before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal[1], where it was found that a 62-year-old Acorn salesperson who had been dismissed was discriminated against because of his age and disability.

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Unfortunately, instances of harassment and discrimination are common practices within the workplace. Often employees participate in acts of wrongdoing that contravene laws that aim to prohibit all discriminatory conduct. Significant implications for employers can arise if they are found to be vicariously liable for the wrongdoings of their employees. Nevertheless, an employer may be able to protect itself against vicarious liability and avoid paying substantial damages for an employees conduct if it can be established that all reasonable steps to prevent unlawful acts occurring in the workplace were in fact taken.  

The issue of what amounts to ‘reasonable steps’ is one of contention, given the operational and size differences from one business to another. Therefore, it is extremely important for employers to be aware of all they can do to best cover themselves from being held liable. A recent case, involving Centerprise Resource Group, highlights this issue for employers. The NT Anti- Discrimination tribunal found Centerprise to be vicariously liable for their employee’s offensive race-based language towards another employee

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Harmonisation background

In late 2012 an Exposure Draft of proposed new federal anti-discrimination legislation was released by the government. The draft bill seeks to harmonise federal anti-discrimination legislation. Currently there are multiple different federal Acts[1] each of which deals with a different ground of discrimination. The proposal seeks to consolidate all these into one piece of legislation which will cover all the different grounds within one standard legal framework.

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