LawTalk Blog

LGBTIQ+ Workplace Discrimination in Australia


There is no doubt that Australia has made a significant shift towards recognising the rights of the people in the LGBTIQ+ community, and marriage equality over the past decade.

Despite this, people in the LGBTIQ+ community continue to face discrimination, and particularly at work.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, 16% of gay men and lesbians surveyed reported had experienced discrimination at work because of their sexual orientation. [1] In addition, 62% of people in the LGBTIQ+ community surveyed felt unable to disclose their sexual orientation in their workplace. [2]

Protection for the LGBTIQ+ community in the workplace

South Australians who identify as LGBTIQ+ are protected under both state and federal anti-discrimination law, being the Equal Opportunities Act 1984 (SA) and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), respectively. In the vast majority of cases, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of the person’s:

  • Sexual orientation;
  • Marital or relationship status;
  • Gender identity; or
  • Intersex status.

What classifies as discrimination?

The kinds of behaviour this may apply to include (but are not limited to):

  • Refusing to hire a job applicant for a reason listed above;
  • Refusing to promote an employee for a reason listed above;
  • Limiting an employee’s work hours for a reason listed above;
  • Dismissing an employee for a reason listed above.

These legal protections also apply to independent contractors.

What do I do if I've been discriminated against at work?

If you are in the LGBTIQ+ community and have experienced discrimination at work, you may be able to make a claim for compensation in the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

It is important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible because there are various factors that need to be considered for each individual matter, including:

  • Time limits for making a claim;
  • Evaluating the evidence proving the employer’s reasons for engaging in the discriminatory behaviour;
  • Determining which Commission to direct the claim to;
  • Determining who bears the onus of proving or disproving the claim; and
  • Whether any exceptions apply, as was the case for a worker employed by a religious institution who has alleged her employment was terminated because of her sexual orientation

If you feel that you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, please contact our expert Employment Law team for confidential legal advice.

This blog was written by Law Clerk, Kira Millikan and settled by Employment Law Solicitor, Carly Bayly.


[1] Australian Human Rights Commission, Resilient Individuals: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Intersex Rights (National Consultation Report) 2015, 19.
[2] Ibid.

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal and South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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