The Federation Press

Indirect Discrimination in the Workplace


An employer’s apparently neutral policies and practices may, perhaps accidentally, certainly unreasonably, exclude women or minority applicants or employees: this is unlawful discrimination.

A host of traditional employment practices have been found to fall into this category - height and weight requirements, a last-on-first-off policy, job mobility conditions, even a bus ticketing system; all have fallen foul of equal opportunity legislation.

This indirect discrimination legislation is complex and in places highly technical. Its impact and potential is little understood. Rosemary Hunter comprehensively analyses the legislation, State and Federal, private sector and public.

She refers extensively to the large body of practice which has grown up in the United States and the United Kingdom. She includes numerous worked examples to show the factual situations which arise and discusses what “legally defensible” employment procedures may involve.


... the clarity and insight with which Hunter has dealt with the strengths and pitfalls of the legislative framework governing indirect discrimination makes her work an outstanding piece of scholarship. .... Not only does it contribute to the demystification of the procedural and legal semantics which have prevailed to date but also to the shaping of the popular perception of what is proscribed conduct and hence unlawful in the context of indirect discrimination. - Australian Journal of Labour Law

Table of Contents

Law and Discrimination

Theories of discrimination and equality
Legal recognition of indirect discrimination

The Australian Legal Framework

Complaint-based legislation
Affirmative action legislation
Other provisions

The Scope of Indirect Discrimination

Physical/ functional characteristics
Formal qualifications and other externally conferred attributes
Socio-cultural behaviour patterns
Perpetuation of corporate cultures
Internal workforce arrangements
Inherited employment disadvantage

Proving Indirect Discrimination

A requirement or condition in employment
The impact of the requirement or condition
The reasonableness of the requirement or condition
The complainant’s inability to comply with the requirement or condition

Enforcement Procedures and Remedies

Complaint-based legislation
Affirmative action legislation
Public service merit protection and non-discrimination provisions

Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

Of interest...