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Ada’s story

Local council worker Ada describes being discriminated against because of her gender identity in the workplace. We explain how the Equal Opportunity Act relates to her situation, and how the Commission can help people who have a similar experience.

A trans woman sitting at a cafe smiles at the camera.

"I work in customer service for a local council, and 90 per cent of the customers don’t even bat an eyelid at me being a trans woman. I wish I could say the same for all my colleagues."

“Fairness at work has always been important to me, but I guess I’ve been more sensitive to it since I transitioned. I work in customer service for a local council, and 90 per cent of the customers don’t even bat an eyelid at me being a trans woman. I wish I could say the same for all my colleagues.

There have been a few incidents that stick in my mind. In the tea room one day, one woman kept making a very deliberate distinction between trans women and ‘real women’, even though she knew I could hear every word. Another rolled his eyes theatrically every time the LGBTIQ acronym was used in team meetings.

When we talked about diversity and inclusion initiatives for local residents, one of the managers from another team interrupted the conversation about appropriate pronouns and said he couldn’t be bothered with silly personal preferences and that using ‘they’ for individuals was ungrammatical.

When my contract came to an end, I didn’t bother reapplying. I made a complaint to the Commission and they arranged a meeting with my manager. She was unaware of some of the things I’d experienced and committed to address the issues I’d raised. I accepted her apology.”

The incidents portrayed in this story are inspired by real complaints received by the Commission, but all names and other identifying details have been changed.

How does the law apply to Ada’s situation?

Under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act, it’s against the law to harass or discriminate against someone because of their gender identity, sexual activity or sexual orientation. This means Ada’s co-workers and manager can’t treat her unfairly just because she’s a trans woman.

The Equal Opportunity Act applies in many areas of public life, including employment. It also covers provision of goods and services, education and accommodation.

You can make a complaint

Get help from us.

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 we help people resolve complaints.

We can also give you information about your rights.

More information

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Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.