Anti-Discrimination NSW > Discrimination > Infectious diseases discrimination

Infectious diseases discrimination

What is infectious diseases discrimination?

Infectious diseases discrimination is against the law and is when you have been treated unfairly because:

  • you have an infectious disease
  • people think you have an infectious disease
  • you used to have an infectious disease
  • you may acquire an infectious disease in the future
  • you are the friend, relative or colleague of a person with an infectious disease.

In what areas is infectious diseases discrimination against the law?

Infectious diseases discrimination is against the law in certain public places, including:

  • employment, such as when you apply for a job or while you are at work
  • employment agencies, such as when you use recruitment companies
  • when you access goods and services, for example when you are shopping, when you do your banking or access medical services
  • state education, such as when you apply for study and during your studies
  • when you rent accommodation
  • industrial organisations, such as unions
  • qualifying bodies
  • at registered clubs (clubs that sell alcohol or have gambling machines), such as when you try to enter or join a club.

What can I do if I experience infectious diseases discrimination?

If you are unsure if you have experienced discrimination or if you need more information, you can contact our enquiry service.

If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can try speaking to the person or organisation directly to express how you feel if you are comfortable to do so. If this isn’t appropriate, you can contact us to make a complaint of discrimination.

If you are treated unfairly because you have made a complaint of discrimination or because you have provided evidence or information about a complaint, this is known as victimisation and is also against the law.

Vilification

HIV/AIDS vilification is against the law and is a public act that could incite hatred, serious contempt or ridicule towards people who have HIV or AIDS. You can contact us to make a complaint if you experience HIV/AIDS vilification.

Public acts include:

  • communications that can be seen or heard by the public (this includes print, radio, video or online)
  • signs, flags or clothing  that could be seen by the public
  • distributing and sharing information to the public.

A public act that threatens or incites violence towards a group of people on the basis of race, religious belief or affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or HIV/AIDS status is a criminal offence that should be referred to the police.

Special facilities

If you can do the essential parts of your job, employers must also provide any special facilities you need to do your job - unless it would cause them 'unjustifiable hardship' to do so. For example, you might need to have your breaks at particular times to take medication as previously, or work partly from home.

Similar rules apply to educational institutions, accommodation providers and registered clubs. In deciding whether providing you with what you need would cause unjustifiable hardship, the organisation involved must consider the benefits of the proposed facilities to their other staff and clients, as well as to you.

Infectious diseases and privacy laws

If an employer, workmate or service, accommodation or education provider tells anyone else about your infectious disease when you haven't said they can, this could lead to discrimination that is against the law. It may also be against privacy laws. For more information on privacy laws contact the Information and Privacy Commission​.

However, some infectious diseases are classified as 'notifiable'. This means that a health care practitioner may have to notify a Public Health Unit about your infectious disease. For more information, contact your local Public Health Unit.

Public health and safety exceptions

An employer or service provider is allowed to discriminate against you if another law tells them that they must. For example:

  • They may have to discriminate against you because of public health or occupational health and safety laws. For example, you are not allowed to handle food when you are in the acute stage of many infectious diseases such as hepatitis A, and you may not be able to do certain specialised medical work if you have hepatitis C. For more information, contact your local Public Health Unit.
  • If there is an outbreak of an infectious disease (such as whooping cough or measles) in a day care centre, pre-school, or primary school, the organisation's director or principal can be instructed by the Public Health Unit to exclude a child who is not immunised until the outbreak is over.

However, there are only rare occasions when health and safety obligations mean that someone can discriminate against you because you have an infectious disease. This means that it is generally against the law to:

  • refuse to hire you or provide you with a service, accommodation or education
  • make you have a blood test
  • segregate you from other staff or clients
  • dismiss you from your job; breach your confidentiality or privacy on the grounds that others have the right to know about your disease
  • treat you unfairly because they think you use drugs or you are gay, and therefore assume that you have an infectious disease.

Do you have a question about discrimination? 

Contact our enquiry service.