A number of Queensland surf clubs have been warned that they are breaking the law by allowing women to wear singlets in their venues, but not men.
By setting different dress standards for men and women when it comes to the same item of clothing – namely singlets – the clubs are opening themselves up to accusations of discrimination, according to Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims.
“You cannot have one set of rules for women, and another set of rules for blokes – that is out and out discrimination, and it’s against the law,” he said.
“A person cannot be treated differently, or less favourably, because of an attribute like their sex or gender.”
Coolum Beach Surf Club general manager Mal Wright said it changed its rules when it received complaints from customers accusing it of being “sexist”.
“We’d have a couple come in, they’d both be wearing singlets and we’d say yes to her and no to him,” he said.
“We’d like to make it easier for people to come into the club and this is just one way of doing that.”
Maroochydore Surf Lifesaving Club bans men from wearing singlets after 5pm, but still allows them for women.
Kurrawa Surf Club at Broadbeach also bans men in singlets in its upstairs venues after 5.30pm.
Alexandra Headland Surf Lifesaving Club refuses to serve men who wear singlets in their main upstairs bar and bistro.
“It’s the committee’s decision this has come up before on a couple of occasions and they voted to stay on what we’ve currently got,” CEO Ashley Robinson said.
Mr Heffernan said the clubs need to urgently review their dress-code policies.
“If they are so against singlets, then they need to ban them for both men and women,” he said.
“But they’d be crazy to do that – times have changed, fashions have changed, and you would have thought they would want to encourage as many people as possible to eat and drink at their venues.”
Acting Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Neroli Holmes has warned the clubs that businesses have been prosecuted for discriminating against people based on their sex.
“Venues just need to be sensible, fair and reasonable about what they’re doing when they’re applying a dress code to make sure that they are being even-handed with both genders,” she said.
Mr Heffernan advised any male who has been refused service at a surf club because he was wearing a singlet to contact his firm.
“If these clubs are breaking the law, and discriminating against someone because of their genitals, then they might find themselves paying a price for being so unfair,” he said.
Are you a male and been refused service in a Queensland surf club because you were wearing a singlet, please contact Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice about your options.