‘My supervisor said a lot of things about my work not being good enough. I heard him talk to the other brickies about me being lazy, like he thinks all Aboriginal people are.’
Richard, a Torres Strait Islander, has been working as a labourer for a builder for the past six months. His supervisor would regularly criticise his work and make comments about his skin colour and how all “black people are lazy”.
Richard was also questioned by his supervisor about taking sick leave even though he had supplied a medical certificate to cover his absence.
When he complained to his employer about how his supervisor was treating him, his employment was terminated.
How does the law apply to Richard’s situation?
Under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act it is against the law to discriminate someone at work because of their race and disability. It is also against the law to victimise someone because they have made a complaint.
Employers have a legal responsibility to make sure that everyone who works for them is treated fairly and with respect.
Richard could make a complaint of race and disability discrimination against his employer and the supervisor. He could also claim victimisation due to being dismissed because he made a complaint of discrimination to his employer.
What outcomes are available?
If Richard decides to make a complaint to the Commission, he could ask for outcomes that are important to him and his community. These could include:
- telling his story and being heard
- an acknowledgement of his experience
- an apology made to him or within the community
- being given a statement of service or a reference
- a promise to change or stop the behaviour
- financial compensation
- cultural awareness training for the supervisor and building company
- new or updated equal opportunity policies for the building company
- the employer talking publicly (e.g., on social media) about their commitment to ensuring their workplace is free from discrimination.
Are you in a similar situation?
You can start by contacting us with your enquiry or complaint – we will then take you through your rights and options.
We can listen to your story and provide you with information about your rights under our laws.
We have staff specifically trained to support First Nations peoples make enquiries and complaints.
When you contact us, we will ask if you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander so that we can provide you with an inclusive and culturally appropriate service.
You can also choose to speak directly to a First Nations staff member if one is available.
This is our tailored approach for First Nations peoples.
You can contact us by
Call 1300 292 153 – weekdays from 10am–3pm.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your issue and whether you would like to speak with a First Nations staff member.
Talk with us through our live online chat. Available weekdays from 10am–3pm.
Online complaint form
Send us your complaint through our online complaint form.
Send us a letter to our address: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Level 3, 204 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053