Anti-Discrimination NSW

​Deafness a problem in job search 

Conciliation: Disability discrimination in employment

Published: 2 May 2017

A pathology service initially rejected an application from a deaf woman on the grounds that she would be unable to fulfil the essential requirements of the position.


A deaf woman who had qualified as a pathologist applied for a position with a pathology service. Her application was rejected because she didn’t have the necessary experience, but the service contacted her later and suggested that she might be interested in a more junior position as a laboratory aide.

However when the service became aware of her disability they said that she wouldn’t be able to fulfil the essential requirements of the junior position. This was because she would have difficulty taking phone calls from doctors wanting results in a high pressure environment. They also gave other reasons relating to safety in a small working space.

The woman made a complaint of disability discrimination. Before the conciliation conference, the service offered the woman the opportunity to interview for a different position as a night-time laboratory aide, which didn’t involve any phone work. However there was only very short notice for the interview and the woman wasn’t able to organise interpreters in that time. 

At the conciliation conference, the service representative offered the woman another opportunity to interview for the night-time position and said they would look at any issues raised by her deafness in relation to this position. However the final agreement, which resolved the complaint, was that the service would keep her informed about any vacant positions that were suitable for her during the next 12 months. 

What are my work rights? Disability discrimination

Applying for a job

In general, all job advertisements, jobs, apprenticeships and traineeships must be open to you, and you have the right to apply for them and be fairly considered for them on the basis of merit. This also applies to bodies which issue licences to perform particular jobs, for example taxi licences or registration to practice as a nurse.

If you are the best person for the job and you can do all the essential parts of the job, then you should get the job, irrespective of your disability. Employers can only refuse to give you a job if you can't do the essential parts or 'inherent requirements' of that job.​​​

More information on Disability discrimination​​​

Bac​k to May 2017 - Equal Time Newsletter​​

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