Race, religion and marital status discrimination


Race, religion and marital status discrimination

An employee who claimed she was discriminated against on the basis of her nationality, religion and marital status was awarded $12,500 in damages.


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An employee who claimed she was discriminated against on the basis of her nationality, religion and marital status was awarded $12,500 in damages.

The employee had been employed in the catering section in a hospital for just over 12 months before she left the workplace due to stress related illness. It was submitted she suffered stress as a result of on-going victimisation and discrimination she was suffering at the hands of a number of her work colleagues (Tanase v South Eastern Area Health Service [1999] NSWADT 39 (15 June 1999)).

When the employee was first introduced at the workplace, a colleague asked her a series of questions about her race, religion and her marital status. Since that time, a particular group of women with who she worked harassed and victimised her. Examples of the harassing behaviour included, swapping shifts so the women would not have to work with the employee and the women not completing the tasks on their shifts so the employee was unable to do her job properly.

The employee complained to her manager about the harassment. However, little was done to address the problem until after the employee resigned. When she resigned a more senior manager at the hospital took action, including instigating EEO sessions and providing written material to staff that indicated that discriminatory behaviour would not be tolerated. The senior manager also encouraged the woman to return to work but the employee did not take up the offer.

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ('the Tribunal') found the cause of the discrimination and victimisation suffered by the employee was the initial conversation she had with one of her co-workers.

"The Tribunal is of the view that on the balance of probabilities the victimisation and harassment [the employee] suffered was a result of this discriminatory attitude. The Tribunal also finds that management were aware of this situation and whilst [the employee] remained employed took few steps to rectify it. On the other hand, immediately after [the employee] left on these grounds, action was taken to ensure the problem did not occur again."

The Tribunal, although sympathising with the employee, stated that she could have been a little more accommodating in taking the employer's offer of a return to work. The Tribunal stated that the "aim of anti-discrimination legislation is not to punish, but to educate and conciliate so that the causes of discrimination can be attacked and both the victims and the perpetrators be brought to harmony."

The Tribunal awarded $12,500 taking into account the employee's failure to consider returning to work and the fact that she had other workers' compensation cases happening which would allow her to recover in another jurisdiction for what were essentially the same complaints.


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