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Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) makes discrimination and certain other conduct (such as sexual harassment) unlawful. The Act also provides for the investigation and inquiry into complaints of discrimination and prohibited conduct.

Grounds of Discrimination

The Anti-Discrimination Act sets out the grounds on which people cannot be discriminated against. Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act is extensive and sets out 20 grounds on which a person cannot be discriminated against:

  • race
  • age
  • sexual orientation
  • lawful sexual activity
  • gender
  • marital status
  • relationship status
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • parental status
  • family responsibilities
  • disability
  • industrial activity
  • political belief or affiliation
  • political activity
  • religious belief or affiliation
  • religious activity
  • irrelevant criminal record
  • irrelevant medical record
  • association with a person who has, or is believed to have, any of these attributes

Sexual Harassment and offensive conduct

The Anti-Discrimination Act makes sexual harassment unlawful. The Act has a broad definition of sexual harassment. As well as unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature, sexual harassment may also include conduct such as unwelcome gestures, actions or comments. Sexual harassment is not just unlawful in the workplace, but in any area to which the Act applies.

As well as making sexual harassment unlawful, the Act also makes it unlawful for a person to offend, humiliate, intimidate, insult or ridicule a person in relation to grounds associated with gender, relationship status and family responsibilities. Often a complaint involving sexual harassment will also involve offensive conduct on the basis of gender or relationship status.

Victimisation

The Act also makes “victimisation” unlawful. Victimisation occurs were a person is treated badly for making a complaint to the Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, or treated badly for supporting a person in their complaint. The victimisation provision also protects people who are treated badly for refusing to do, or join in, discriminatory or other prohibited conduct.

Inciting Hatred, Serious Contempt or Severe Ridicule

The Act makes it unlawful for a person to incite hatred toward, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group on the following grounds:

  • race
  • disability
  • sexual orientation or lawful sexual activity
  • religious belief, affiliation or activity

Unlike the other provisions of the Act, where the unlawful activity must be connected with an area of activity (such as employment, or education), this provision applies to any public act.

Obligations of organisations

The Anti-Discrimination Act requires that all organisations take a pro-active role to ensure that the Act’s provisions are known and adhered to by all managers, employees and others. Failure to do so may mean that organisations are directly liable for any breaches of the Act by their officers, employees, agents, etc. This provision is contained in section 104 of the Act.

Often when a person complains of being discriminated at work, they will bring a complaint against the person who discriminated against them, and the organisation where they work, for failing to ensure that the manager or employee did not engage in discriminatory conduct.

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