Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW > Discrimination > Marital or domestic status discrimination

Marital or domestic status discrimination    


What does the law say about marital or domestic status discrimination?

It is generally against the law in NSW to treat you unfairly or harass you because of your marital or domestic status, that is, because you are:

  • single
  • married
  • in a de facto relationship
  • separated
  • divorced
  • widowed.

It is also against the law to treat you unfairly or harass you because of the marital or domestic status of any of your relatives, friends, associates or work colleagues.

Indirect marital or domestic status discrimination is also against the law. This occurs when there is a rule or requirement that disadvantages people of a particular marital or domestic status more than people of another marital or domestic status - unless it can be shown that the rule or requirement is 'reasonable in all the circumstances'.

For example, a financial institution might not give loans to people with an unstable accommodation history. This could be indirect discrimination against people who are recently divorced, if they are otherwise able to repay the loan.

What if I'm treated unfairly or harassed because of who my partner is?

Sometimes a person can be discriminated against because of who their partner is. For example, you may not get a job or promotion because your partner already works for the same employer. Or you may be dismissed because your partner starts work with a business that is in competition with the company you work for.

If this type of decision is based on assumptions or stereotyped views of how people of a particular marital or domestic status behave, then it could be discriminatory. An example of a stereotyped view might be that married people can't work together or that the personal character of one partner is relevant to the other.

It won't always be against the law when someone treats you unfairly because of who your partner is, but we advise employers and service providers that it is best to avoid this kind of discrimination. There is usually a way of dealing with their concerns without having to discriminate. For more information about this part of the law, contact our Enquiry Service.

When does this law apply?

Marital or domestic status discrimination is generally against the law in the following areas:

  • in employment - when you apply for a job or for a licence or registration to perform a job, when you are at work, or when you leave a job

  • when you get, or try to get, most types of goods or services - for example, from shops, banks, lawyers, government departments, the police, public transport, local councils, doctors, hospitals and other medical services, hotels, sporting venues and entertainment venues

  • when you apply to get into or study in any educational institution, which includes any government school, non-government school, college or university

  • when you rent or buy accommodation such as houses, units, flats, hotel or motel rooms and commercial premises

  • when you try to enter or join a registered club, or when you get services from one. A registered club is any club that sells alcohol or has gambling machines.