I have been unfairly treated at work due to my political opinion, what can I do?

I have been unfairly treated at work due to my political opinion, what can I do?

In the modern era, having the power to freedom of speech is a hot topic. Free speech is considered the most precious of rights and allows a person to communicate ideas and opinions in the form of speaking, writing or printing but can it be abused?

Within organisations, employees are entitled to have a different political opinion to that of their managers and colleagues. An employee should not have adverse action taken against them for holding different views.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) protects people from discrimination in their employment.  It is a statutory body and acts as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Division 4 of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (Cth) relates to equal opportunity in employment and details the functions and performance of functions relating to equal opportunity.
Under section 15 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) every person has the right to:

  • Hold an opinion without interference;
  • freedom of expression which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.

People are entitled to express their views and opinions in multiple ways such as orally, in writing, in print, by way of art or in any other medium.

Treating someone differently is not necessarily considered discrimination. In terms of the Fair Work Act 2009 (cth), an action is only considered an adverse action if it occurs due to one or more attributes.

Fair Work Act 2009 (cth), states that an employer must not take adverse action against a person who is an employee, or prospective employee, of the employer because of the person’s;

  • Political opinion;
  • Social origin;
  • Sexual preference;
  • Religion;
  • Many other factors including race, colour, age & marital status.

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee. This includes full time, part time and casual employees, probationary employees, apprentices and trainees.  It is also unlawful to refuse to hire someone based on the above attributes.

If you believe that you that you were dismissed on the grounds of being unlawfully discriminated against, you have 21 days to seek legal advice. Alternatively, if you have not been dismissed but still allege there has been a breach of the unlawful discrimination provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (cth) you are able to seek legal action to help deal with the dispute.

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