What is sex discrimination?
Everyone deserves to be treated equally, regardless of whether they are male, or female, transgender, or intersex.
Sex discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably because of their sex, than someone in a similar situation who is of a different sex.
Although sex discrimination is unlawful, it still happens far too often.
There are both state and federal laws that protect people from sex discrimination.
Federally, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their sex, gender identity, intersex status, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status, family responsibilities, because they are pregnant or might become pregnant, or because they are breastfeeding.
In addition, the SDA makes sexual harassment against the law.
In Queensland, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their sex.
Sex discrimination includes:
- treating a person less favourably because of their sex than someone in similar circumstances of a different sex;
- imposing an unreasonable requirement or condition which disadvantages people of a particular sex.
Sex discrimination in employment occurs when someone is treated less favourably than a person of the opposite sex would be treated in the same or similar circumstances.
It can happen when advertising for a position, during the recruitment process, when offering training and promotions, and when dismissing an employee.
All too often, employers or managers hold assumptions about what sort of work women are capable – or not capable – of performing.
Examples can include:
- not hiring a woman because the employer thinks she won’t fit into a ‘traditionally’ male workplace
- not paying a woman the same salary as a man for doing the same work, or not providing the same opportunities for training, mentoring or promotion
- allocating work tasks based on a person’s sex.
Provision of goods and services
The SDA makes it unlawful to discriminate in the provision of services, such as banking and insurance services; services provided by government agencies; transport or telecommunication services; professional services, such as those provided by lawyers, doctors or tradespeople; and services provided by restaurants, shops or entertainment venues.
This means that it is against the law for a business to discriminate against a person by:
- refusing to provide a person with goods, services and facilities
- providing them with goods, services and facilities on less favourable terms and conditions, or
- providing goods, services and facilities in an unfair manner
because of their sex, gender identity, intersex status, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status or family responsibilities, because they are pregnant or might become pregnant, or because they are breastfeeding.
For example, it could be discrimination if a bank refused to approve a loan because the applicant was unmarried or was divorced.
How we can help
If you have experienced discrimination on the basis of your sex, our team of Australian workplace lawyers and industrial relations advocates at Discrimination Claims can help.
We can take action on your behalf and represent you in the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant court or tribunal.
We can advocate on your behalf in conciliation or mediation sessions, and are specialists at negotiating large compensation payments for those who have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, including sex discrimination.
IMPORTANT: If you have been dismissed from employment because of sex discrimination, you only have 21 days from the date of your dismissal to lodge a claim, so don’t delay!
To connect with us, please follow us on
LAST UPDATED: January 2023