Political belief or activity
In Australia, everyone has the right to vote for and support what they believe in. Your political beliefs or political activities are a protected characteristic, meaning that it is against the law for someone to treat you unfairly, discriminate against you or bully you because of your political beliefs or activity, as long as they are within the law.
What is political belief or activity discrimination?
Political belief or activity discrimination is when someone discriminates against you, by bullying you or treating you unfairly, because of your political beliefs or activities, or what people think these might be.
Political belief or activity means your beliefs and actions, as long as they are lawful. It also protects your right not to hold certain beliefs or take certain actions.
That means it is against the law to discriminate against you because you support a certain political party or because you don’t support a certain political party.
Political belief and activity means when someone:
- does, or does not, have a lawful political belief
- is, or is not, a member of a political party
- takes part in, or refuses to take part in, political action.
Examples of political belief or activity discrimination
- Asking a candidate at a job interview if they’re a member of a political party, and saying the company won’t hire anyone who doesn’t share the employer’s beliefs.
- A landlord evicting a tenant because they placed a placard for a political party in their front yard during an election campaign.
How does the law protect me?
Discrimination is against the law if it happens in an area of public life such as:
- school, TAFE or university
- a club or sporting organisation
- shops and restaurants
- aged care, hotels or rental properties.
Under the Equal Opportunity Act, duty holders (such as employers, schools, and goods and service providers) have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in these areas, as far as possible.
It is also against the law to victimise a person, which means treat them badly, because they have made complaint about discrimination or helped someone else make a complaint.
You can make a complaint
Get help from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
You can make a complaint to us if you think you have experienced:
If you wish, someone else can make a complaint for you. Find out how the Commission helps people resolve complaints.
We can also give you information about your rights.
Political belief or activity discrimination at work
While a person is responsible for their own unlawful behaviour, employers can also be held responsible.
Victoria is unique in having a positive duty, which creates an opportunity to prevent unlawful behaviour. It helps organisations put a healthy workplace culture in place, just as occupational health and safety laws require employers to take appropriate steps to ensure injuries don’t occur.
To ensure they are complying with the positive duty, organisations should also put measures in place to ensure that complaints are responded to swiftly and appropriately when they do arise.
The positive duty applies to employers of all sizes, regardless of whether they are a major company or a small cafe, and covers all types of workers:
- full-time, part-time and casual employees
- agents and contract workers
- trainees and apprentices.
It applies to all stages of employment, including:
- advertising jobs and recruitment
- returning to work after injury, illness or pregnancy
- dismissal and retrenchment.
Examples of workplace discrimination because of political belief or activity
- An employer dismissing a staff member after seeing on social media that they’d taken part in a political rally.
- A staff member making rude comments to a co-worker about their membership of a conservative political party and refusing to work on a project with them.
- A manager only promoting staff members who agree with her political beliefs.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
There are some exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act that mean it’s not against the law to discriminate in particular circumstances. For example, discrimination is not against the law if there is a real risk to someone’s health, safety or property.
Find out more about exceptions.
My human rights under the Charter
Every Victorian has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.
Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities contains 20 basic rights that promote and protect the values of freedom, respect, equality, and dignity.
The Victorian Government, local councils and other public authorities must always consider Charter rights, including the right to equality, when they create laws, develop policies and deliver their services.
Find out more about your human rights under the Charter and what to do if you think they have been breached.