Conciliations - race discrimination    

 

    Employment

    Muslim woman treated differently because of headscarf (Sept 2014)

    A woman who was working on contract as a doctor for a health service lodged a complaint of race discrimination. She felt that a supervisor had harassed and ridiculed her and questioned her professionalism in front of junior colleagues. She believed that she was treated differently to other employees because she is a Jordanian Muslim and wears a hijab (headscarf).

    The complainant had lodged an internal complaint with her employer but this had not been finalised by the time the Board arranged a conciliation conference. The employer approached the conciliation with a positive attitude and was keen to resolve the issue. They said that a concrete complaint may provide them with the opportunity to address bullying more actively.

    The employer agreed to fully investigate the incident and if appropriate, reinforce the organisation’s code of conduct and provide refresher training on preventing bullying and harassment. The complainant was happy with this outcome and hoped to return to the service for a further contract.

    Aboriginal man abused (Feb 2014)

    An Aboriginal man who worked in a government service alleged that he had been racially abused by a colleague, and this was corroborated by a witness. He had previously lodged an internal complaint about disputes with this man but there had been no result. He wanted redress in the form of an apology and cultural awareness training.

    The colleague denied that he had abused the man. He claimed that he was also Aboriginal and therefore couldn’t be racist, which offended the complainant further.

    There was some debate about the date on which the alleged incident had occurred, as the employer said it did not seem from their records that the complainant, the respondent and the witness were rostered on the same shift at the time of the alleged incident. The employer suggested that the complainant had made up the complaint in order to harass the respondent.

    However, the employer approached the locally held conciliation conference with a positive attitude. They acknowledged the complainant’s distress and admitted that there were factions in the organisation which needed to be addressed. The complainant also approached the conference positively and felt his concerns had been listened to.

    The employer agreed to cultural awareness training but did not feel that an apology would be possible or meaningful, given previous incidents with this respondent. The senior representative at the conference also invited the complainant to contact him at any time if he had any further problems. This was accepted by the complainant.

    Free training only given to certain groups (Feb 2014)

    A woman who did project work for a government department was not part of a group that was being promoted under an affirmative action program. She alleged that she had been told to undertake mandatory training which would be free for people in the group but not for people who weren’t in the group.

    She said that later she was asked to assist with the work of people who had been promoted above her but were less experienced than she was. She felt that her work was not being valued, and this was supported by some staff who were members of the group being promoted. At this point the complainant resigned from her position and lodged a complaint of race discrimination.

    The department denied that the course was compulsory, and that the woman would have to pay for it. Initial consideration of the issues did not bring about resolution, but the issue was ultimately resolved through discussion at a conciliation conference.

    The respondent acknowledged the complainant's concerns and showed recognition of the frustrations she experienced, and the complainant was satisfied by this. The complaint was resolved when the department agreed to pay the woman $5,000 in compensation.

    Jewish man's problems with work location (Feb 2014)

    A Jewish man was working casually for a cleaning company in a position which required him to work at different locations. He told his employer he was unable to work beyond a certain distance from home on Fridays as he had to get home by sunset for ethno-religious reasons.

    The company said they could offer the man a different job at another location, but then the company was restructured and he said he then felt he had to quit as he felt he had been blacklisted. He said he then applied for another job with the same company and he was told he had been marked 'review suitability if reapplies'.

    The man made a complaint of race discrimination, and the complaint was settled on a minor amount of financial compensation and the removal of the “review suitability” on his file.

    Sacked after 11 years

    A man of Chinese ethnicity, who is in his 60s, had worked as a labourer for a manufacturing company for 11 years when he was sacked by his employer. His trade union made a complaint of age and race discrimination on his behalf as his written English was limited.

    The company denied that the dismissal had anything to do with the man’s race or age, but claimed it was because his work performance was unsatisfactory as he supposedly couldn’t follow instructions and caused damage to materials. The union argued that there was no explanation of why his work performance had not been an issue before during his 11 years service.

    The complaint was settled at conciliation when the employer agreed to pay the complainant $6,000 compensation for the loss of his job.

    Aboriginal man treated differently

    An Aboriginal man was employed as a leading hand. He alleged that his employer discriminated against him on the ground of race when he was subjected to racist abuse by a co-worker. When he made a complaint about this and later lost his driver's licence, he was effectively suspended. 

    The employer said that it took appropriate action regarding the incident of racial abuse. It said that the decision to not make any work available to the complainant after he lost his driver’s licence was not causally connected to his prior complaint. It argued that holding a driver’s licence was an inherent requirement of the man’s job. The complainant said that another employee who lost his licence was provided with alternate duties until he regained the licence, but the employer said that the circumstances were different in this case.

    In conciliation, a settlement was negotiated in which the respondent would provide the complainant with alternate duties for the period of his licence suspension and re-credit his leave during the period of suspension.

    Aboriginal woman's work monitored

    An Aboriginal woman felt that her supervisor undertook unnecessary monitoring of her work and generally treated her in a patronising way in comparison with non-indigenous workers. She also developed a back problem, which meant that she was unable to continue working with the group she had originally been assigned. Despite continual requests to be transferred to work with another group her request was not met, even though a vacancy came up in a suitable group, which was filled by a casual worker.

    She lodged a complaint of race and sex discrimination with the Board. The complaint was resolved at a conciliation conference with $2,500 paid to the woman. The employer also undertook to request that the supervisor make a written apology to her and be made aware of the employer’s policies regarding Aboriginal cultural awareness.

    Headscarf issues at work

    The complainant was a young woman who worked on a casual basis at a childcare centre. She alleged that when she told the director she had decided to start wearing a hijab (headscarf) to work, the director reacted negatively, made various offensive comments about Muslims and said that the centre might lose business as the parents would not like it.

    The woman said she was not offered any more shifts at the centre after she affirmed her decision to the director. However the management of the centre denied that this was racially based, saying that the complainant was still on their books but was in the least likely group to be offered work because she did not have relevant qualifications.

    The complaint was settled when the centre management agreed that the complainant would be offered casual shifts subject to availability. It was also agreed that the complainant would supply information about the hijab to the respondent to promote better understanding.

    Higher work targets

    The complainant was a man of African origin who worked as a casual employee for a large company through an employment agency. He alleged that he and another African co-worker were set higher work targets than other employees who were not African.

    He also alleged that when he asked about being made a permanent employee he was told that he was not eligible because he had a previous workers compensation claim, and because he had failed a medical – although he had heard that other employees who failed the medical were made permanent. He also said he was accused of stealing in a manner which was damaging to his reputation and self-esteem.

    After the man took a day off work to care for his daughter when she was ill, he was not offered any more work. He was told by the employment agency that there was no work available but he understood from other sources that casuals were still being recruited by the company. The complaint was resolved when the complainant agreed to accept an offer of ongoing work at the company.

    Comments about body size

    The complainant was a woman from of Islander background who worked as a process worker for a manufacturing company. She alleged that her production manager and colleagues made derogatory remarks about her race, including telling her to “go back to your country”.

    She also alleged that her co-workers made comments about her body size, told her to exercise and lose weight, told her that her job should have gone to a man, stood in close proximity to her and insinuated that she had had sexual relations with the production manager. She said that when she complained about this treatment she was dismissed.

    The employer denied the allegations and said the complainant was dismissed for reasons not related to her complaints. The complaint was settled when the employer agreed to pay her $2,000.

    Employment allegedly terminated without reason

    A man working as a cleaner alleged that his supervisor continually harassed him by regularly referring to him as a ‘****ing black Indian.’ He also experienced other general verbal abuse and intimidation, and was finally terminated without explanation. The employer denied that the supervisor had made any of the alleged statements. They said that the man’s employment was terminated after he was  warned on several occasions about poor work performance and use of offensive language. The matter was resolved when the man accepted a payment of $3,000 in settlement.

    Employer abused staff

    Two men of Vietnamese background worked in a bakery, and one of them heard an argument between their employer and another Vietnamese man, in which the employer allegedly said that he hated Vietnamese people. The men both made complaints of race discrimination, alleging that the employer refused to apologise to the third man and then came and told all his Vietnamese staff that they had to speak English in the workplace or they could leave. The two complainants both left the workplace.

    At a conciliation conference conducted through a Vietnamese interpreter, the employer agreed that he had said that he hated Vietnamese people, but said he was joking. He said he should have apologised at the time, but agreed to apologise in the conciliation conference. One of the complainants accepted this and his complaint was resolved with an apology and handshake. The other complainant did not accept it and his complaint was referred to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

    Security guard harassed about background

    A security guard from the former Yugoslavia complained that on his first day at work his supervisor said 'here's another bimbo Yugoslav joining us'. From then on he was harassed and subjected to disparaging comments, given no supervision or training, and victimised by being transferred when he reported this to management. Eventually he resigned and found another job.

    The complaint was settled when the employer agreed to provide a payment of $3,930, a statement of service, and an undertaking to train employees about harassment and discrimination.

    Abused by subordinate

    An Indo-Fijian man complained that a subordinate at work abused him racially, and when he reported this his employer didn't deal with the matter adequately. The complaint was resolved when the respondent agreed to review its policies and procedures on harassment and anti-discrimination and the complainant was provided with a verbal apology.

    Harassed by supervisor

    A club employee said that he had been racially harassed for some time by his supervisor. The club had no anti-harassment policy and no grievance procedure. The complaint was resolved when the man was paid financial compensation and the club agreed to develop a harassment policy and educate staff about their rights and responsibilities. Also, the supervisor was demoted.

    Goods and services

    Banned for 10 years from local club in rural NSW (August 2015)

    The complainant was an Aboriginal woman who lives in rural NSW. When she and her partner visited the local club, they had a physical altercation in which the complainant assaulted her partner.

    The club banned the complainant for 10 years, which meant she would not be able to return until 2024. She made a complaint of race discrimination to the Board, arguing that a non-aboriginal person who was involved in a similar assault was only given six months suspension. She said that this was not in accordance with the club’s policy, which specifies a 12-month suspension for a first assault offence.
     
    The Board wrote to the club asking for their response to the complaint, including why the penalty imposed on the complainant was not in accordance with their suspension policy. The club advised the Board they had reviewed the complainant’s penalty and reduced her suspension to 12 months. They also offered the complainant a written apology. The complainant accepted this outcome.​

    Lifetime ban from registered club unfair (Nov 2014)

    An Aboriginal man complained that a registered club discriminated against him when it revoked his membership and issued him a life ban for swearing on club premises. He alleged that on the same night, a non-Aboriginal woman who also came to the club’s attention for swearing, was not asked to leave the premises and was able to retain her membership.

    The club said that the complainant had been warned about inappropriate language before being asked to leave but continued with his conduct. It said that the complainant was at the point of intoxication and became argumentative when the police were called.  The complainant denied that he had conducted himself inappropriately.

    At the conciliation conference the complainant's representative argued that a lifetime ban was a disproportionate penalty.   The complaint was resolved when the club agreed to commute the complainant’s life ban to a ban for the remainder of that year, at which point his membership would be reinstituted.

    Difficulty with welfare agency

    An Aboriginal woman went to a welfare agency to collect some furniture that had been allocated to her by an assessor of the agency. She alleged that the office manager became abusive towards her when she asked to choose the items of furniture. She also alleged that when she tried to reason with the manager, he become more abusive and ordered her from the shop. She complained to the Board about race discrimination.

    The complaint was resolved when the woman accepted an explanation of the agency’s policy for allocation of furniture and a statement of regret. She also accepted the agency’s invitation to return to the agency to fulfil the order.

    Unwarranted attention in store

    The complainants were a de-facto couple, one of whom is Aboriginal, who went with their baby to a store to buy clothes. They alleged that one sales assistant treated them abruptly and rudely, and insisted on taking items from them while they browsed in another part of the store.

    In addition they said they were given unwarranted attention by several sales assistants who later appeared to notify a loss prevention officer. They said that when they complained to store management, their complaint was not taken seriously or dealt with adequately.

    The respondent denied that the complainants had been treated rudely or abruptly, and said that what they were describing was consistent with how any customer in similar circumstances would be treated, regardless of their race. The complaint was settled when the complainants accepted the respondent’s offer of $250.

    Refused entry

    A group of men made complaints of race and sex discrimination against a number of bars and nightclubs that would not allow them to enter. In one case they were told that there were already too many men inside, in another the premises were too full, and in another it was members only. However the complainants alleged they were turned away because they were “of Middle Eastern appearance”, although they were not all from the Middle East.

    The complaints were resolved when the venues agreed to pay each of the men compensation of $500.

    Denied entry to nightclub

    Two African men were refused entry to a nightclub. They were better dressed than many of the others who were being allowed into the club and couldn’t understand why they had been refused. When they talked to the bouncer, he said that they’d had trouble with Africans before.

    At conciliation, the manager of the nightclub gave the men a letter of apology and undertook to revise the policies and practices of his nightclub in relation to discrimination. The manager encouraged the men to come back to the club, saying that they would never be discriminated against again.

    Interpreter not provided

    A man alleged that a local council treated him less favourably because of his race when it didn’t provide him with interpreter services in spite of his requests. He alleged that he was ordered to destroy a pigeon loft and was not told that he could lodge a development application. As a result, he was forced to destroy a number of prized pigeons. The matter was resolved at the Board when the council agreed to pay him $2,000.

    Problems with travel insurance

    A man of Spanish background had recently returned from a trip to his country of birth. He needed medical treatment during his holiday, and made a claim on his travel insurance policy. He alleged that he provided medical certificates and receipts to support his claim, but these were written in Spanish, and the insurer advised him that his claim would not be accepted unless he provided certified translations. This would have involved considerable cost to the man and did not appear to be a condition of the policy.

    The matter had been going on for some time, as the man had some difficulty dealing with the insurer because his English was not fluent. After the Board contacted the insurer, they agreed to have the documents translated at their expense. At conciliation, some outstanding matters were clarified. Within a few days the man had received a cheque for the amount of his claim, minus the excess stipulated in his policy.

    Accommodation

    Certificate of Aboriginality required

    An Aboriginal man applied to his housing provider for a larger house, for reasons relating to his Aboriginality. His application was rejected on the grounds that he did not provide a ‘Certificate of Aboriginality’ to prove that he was Aboriginal. The man made a complaint of race discrimination to the Board. He explained that although he did not have a Certificate of Aboriginality, he had legal documents relating to his removal from his Aboriginal family as a child.

    At conciliation, the housing provider said that the man had not provided the documents when he made the original application, and they would have accepted these as proof of Aboriginality. The man said the housing provider had not told him he that had the option of providing other documentation apart from the certificate.

    The complaint was resolved when the housing provider agreed to transfer the man to a larger house near where he was receiving medical treatment, to provide him with a statement of regret and pay him $3,000 compensation, and to review its policy regarding proof of Aboriginality in consultation with the man and the relevant agencies.

    Refused housing

    An Aboriginal woman alleged that she would not be offered a house because an Aboriginal housing corporation board member had told the real estate agent managing the property that she didn’t associate with other Aboriginal people, her children went to a non-Aboriginal pre-school and her husband was not Aboriginal.

    She made a complaint of race discrimination by association and marital status discrimination against the corporation’s board. The corporation said that the process of selection had not actually been completed and that the board member had spoken to the real estate agent without their authority.

    The complaint was resolved when the corporation agreed to provide the woman with a letter of apology and a payment of $2,000. The house had already been allocated to another applicant whom the corporation considered to be in greater need.

    Trial lease required

    An Aboriginal man alleged that his application for accommodation was not progressed on the ground of his race. He said that he was advised that he would need to go on a three month trial lease if he was the successful applicant. His application was ultimately rejected and the agent refused to provide with reasons for the rejection. The complainant accepted a $4,000 payment in settlement of his complaint.

    Education

    TAFE English requirements policy amended (Sept 2014)

    A man contacted the Board when he was asked to provide proof of his proficiency in English to enrol in an accounting course at an educational institution. He had arrived in Australia when he was 11 and had completed other courses at TAFE and university in Australia.

    The man alleged that the institution discriminated against him on the basis of his race by assuming because of his name that he was from a non-English speaking background and requiring him to provide proof of his proficiency in English rather than considering his education in Australia.

    The Board wrote to the institution seeking their response to the complaint. They responded that the staff member had handled the man’s application in accordance with the relevant policy, but they realised from this incident that the policy was inadequate.

    The institution apologised to the complainant. They undertook to amend their policy on English requirements for admission and review all other their policies where English proficiency requirements are specified.

    Registered clubs

    Dispute between customers

    A Polynesian woman was a customer at a registered club. While she was eating a meal, another client accused her of staring at him. When she said she wasn’t looking at him, the man didn’t believe her and began abusing her because of her race. The Board sent a letter to the club and they agreed to hold a meeting between the woman and the person who’d harassed her. During the meeting, the man admitted that he’d called the woman racist names. The club told the man that racial harassment would not be tolerated in the club and that if the behaviour happened again, he would be suspended. The man offered an apology to the woman.

    Alleged she was served second

    An Aboriginal woman complained that when she went to collect her winnings from the poker machines at the local golf club, the bar manager asked her if she was a member, and then began serving a white man who had arrived at the bar after her. The complaint was resolved when the president of the club and the bar manager agreed to provide a statement of regret about the incident, and confirmed that she was welcome at the club.