Sex discrimination    


What does the law say about sex discrimination?

Sex discrimination is against the law in NSW. This includes the following:

  • when you are treated unfairly or harassed because of your sex - that is, because you're a woman or because you're a man
  • when you are sexually harassed - this includes such things as unwanted sexual comments or abuse, unwanted sexual suggestions, offensive gestures and unwanted sexual contact
  • where you are treated unfairly or harassed because you are pregnant or you are breastfeeding
  • where you are treated unfairly or harassed because of the sex, pregnancy or breastfeeding of your relative, friend, associate or work colleague.

It is mostly women who experience sex discrimination, however sex discrimination against men does happen sometimes and it is also against the law.

Differing dress standards for men and women may be sex discrimination - for example, it could be against the law if women are allowed to wear earrings in a workplace but men are not, if the earrings do not affect their work in any way.

Dress rules do not have to be exactly the same in terms of individual garments, as dress norms are different for men and women. However, they should be of a similar standard - for example, if men are required to wear 'neat casual clothes' then women should be also.

More on pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination

More on carer's responsibilities discrimination

More on harassment and sexual harassment

Indirect discrimination

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

For example, it might be indirect sex discrimination to have a requirement that you must be 180 cm tall to do a particular job, if the work could be arranged so this was not necessary. This is because on average men are taller than women and so more men would be able to meet the height requirement than women.

When does this law apply?

Sex discrimination is against the law in the following situations:

  • 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 State educational institution, which includes any government school, college or university. Sexual harassment is also against the law in independent (private) educational institutions, but other types of sex discrimination are not
  • when you rent 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 a club that sells alcohol or has gambling machines.