Domestic violence victim loses discrimination case

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Domestic violence victim loses discrimination case

An employee has lost her sex discrimination case after she unsuccessfully argued that being a victim of domestic violence was an attribute of being a woman.

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An employee has lost her sex discrimination case after she unsuccessfully argued that being a victim of domestic violence was an attribute of being a woman.

Background


Nicole Wright made a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland against Callvm Bishop, a director of Constantin Cross, on 18 April 2017.

The complaint was accepted on 10 May 2017 and referred to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. The complaint indicated that Ms Wright was discriminated against by her employer based on her sex.

Ms Wright called in sick on 22 March 2017 due to a domestic violence incident the night before. She sent Mr Bishop a text message informing him of the incident and that she would return to work the day after.

Upon her return Ms Wright told her employer that she needed the work as she was now homeless. After completing her day’s work Ms Wright was informed by her employer that he could no longer afford to pay her. An email was sent to her agency to terminate the work arrangement.

Ms Wright then proceeded to make a complaint stating she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex.

The law


The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of certain attributes including sex (s7(a)). Discrimination in the workplace is specifically prohibited (s15(1)).

Arguments


Ms Wright argued that her dismissal was discriminatory on the basis of her sex as a woman. She further contended that domestic violence is generally characterised as an attribute of sex, namely a characteristic of being a woman. She submitted research that indicated most cases of domestic violence were instances of violence committed against women. Ms Wright also argued an inability to keep issues of domestic violence from impacting on her work was also a characteristic commonly imputed to females.

Mr Bishop conceded that women suffered domestic violence in higher numbers but that males and young boys also suffered such violence. It was thus argued that domestic violence could not be seen as an exclusive attribute of being a woman.

Mr Bishop submitted statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that confirmed that males did experience domestic violence though at much lower numbers.

Ms Wright referred to some of Mr Bishop's arguments as perpetuating archaic notions that women, by their status as being females, were more prone to be emotional and unable to control their emotions at work.

Legal question


The Commission was tasked with determining whether being a victim of domestic violence was a characteristic of being a woman or whether it was a characteristic that could be imputed to being a woman.

Decision


The Commission found that being a victim of domestic violence was not a characteristic that women generally had.

As the Commission put it: “There is nothing in the applicant’s submissions that support this proposition. It is also not accepted that being a victim of domestic violence is a feature or quality of being a woman that serves to identify a person as being a woman.”

The Commission further found there was nothing submitted by Ms Wright that would support the proposition that she was discriminated against because of her inability as a woman to not bring personal issues into work.

The case was dismissed.

Wright v Bishop [2018] QIRC (23 January 2018)
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