Know your rights: LGBTIQA+ discrimination at work

Know your rights: LGBTIQA+ discrimination at work
SEEK content teamupdated on 23 February, 2022

Most people are aware that it’s illegal for a company to decide not to hire you based on your LGBTIQA+ identity. What some people may not realise though, is that this type of discrimination based on your sexual identity can go beyond the hiring process.

LGBTIQA+ discrimination can happen in both subtle and obvious ways within the workplace. It can be driven by either conscious or subconscious biases held by colleagues and people in management and leadership roles.

No matter what the reason is for it, this type of workplace discrimination is illegal. To make sure you’re being treated fairly and equally, it’s important to understand the different types of LGBTIQA+ discrimination that commonly occur, and what kind of recourse is available if you experience it.

How can I tell if I’m being discriminated against?

Workplace discrimination, especially based on your sexual identity, isn’t always super obvious. For that reason, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you’re being discriminated against or not.

A great place to start is understanding the common ways in which LGBTIQA+ discrimination usually occurs. As Andrew Jewell, principal lawyer with Jewell Hancock Employment Lawyers explains, examples of discrimination can vary greatly.

“Obvious forms of discrimination are more easily identified – such as a dismissal or missing a promotion - however more subtle forms do exist,” he says.

“This could extend to not receiving invitations to work-related social gatherings, not being invited to participate in training or development activities, or even being greeted in a different manner to your peers.”

At the end of the day, if you have a sense that you are being treated differently because of your LGBTIQA+ identity, it’s not something you should ignore.

“If you feel you are being disadvantaged in any way in the workplace and the reason for that disadvantage is your sexual identity, then you may be being discriminated against,” Jewell says.

“The best way to test this is to consider whether there are other motivations for the disadvantage, for example experience or performance … if not then it may be illegal discrimination.”

Why is LGBTIQA+ workplace discrimination illegal?

Creating and protecting a diverse and inclusive workplace is incredibly beneficial. Not only can it promote creativity and innovation, but it can also reduce absenteeism and high turnover rates.

It also ensures that every individual, no matter their sexual identity, is treated equally and can enjoy working in a safe environment. As Jewell explains, the reason there is a law protecting members of the LGBTIQA+ community is to ensure they cannot be discriminated against based on simply existing as who they are.

“This discrimination is illegal because at both a state and a federal level we have determined that LGBTIQA+ status is not a legitimate basis for detriment in the workplace,” he says.

“It’s important that employers are aware of their obligations, including to members of the LGBTIQA+ community, as they change and develop over time.”

What can I do if I believe I’ve been discriminated against?

There are avenues you can take if you believe you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace because you identify as LGBTIQA+.

Jewell advises that the first step is to take it up internally with a manager or your workplace’s Human Resources department.

However, if this is not successful or if you don’t feel comfortable raising it with management or Human Resources, you can escalate the matter.

This can mean getting in contact with your state’s human rights commission, or a federal government agency such as the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) or The Fair Work Commission. These agencies can be helpful in providing general advice or if you’re unsure whether you’ve experienced discrimination in your workplace.

As Jewell notes, if you’ve been discriminated in the workplace based on your sexual identity, your “grievance is justified and should be addressed.”

Although it can be difficult and potentially even uncomfortable to pursue recourse, it’s important to do so as it can assist you in achieving fair compensation and may prevent further incidents occurring to yourself or other LGBTIQA+ employees within your organisation.

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