Zoe describes being discriminated against at work for union activity. We explain how the Equal Opportunity Act relates to her situation, and how the Commission can help people who have a similar experience.
"Later that week, my manager spoke to me about the meeting. He was angry that I’d arranged the meeting and said that I was trying to undermine him. He said I was ‘a troublemaker’ who needed to ‘learn to fit in’."
“I was working casually at a textile factory and I really enjoyed the flexibility of my shifts. Management introduced a new policy that required everyone to be there in the morning by 8.00 am. It didn’t bother me – I had my own car and didn’t live too far away – but lots of my colleagues had young kids and I knew they’d struggle to make the new rostering work.
I’ve acted as a union representative before, so I arranged a meeting with the rest of the staff to discuss ways to approach management about renegotiating the clock-on time. We came up with some ideas and I started putting together some notes for us to take to management.
Later that week, my manager spoke to me about arranging the meeting and said that I was trying to undermine him. He said I was ‘a troublemaker’ who needed to ‘learn to fit in’. It seemed like such an overreaction – I was just trying to help us have a constructive conversation, not cause trouble. He said that if I kept it up, he’d be more than happy to reduce my shifts. I couldn’t take that risk; I really depended on regular shifts to earn a living.
I knew that you couldn’t be discriminated against for being part of a union, so I spoke to the Commission. They explained that industrial activity is one of the attributes protected by the law, and they arranged a meeting between me, the factory manager and a conciliator. Management agreed to revise the rostering policy and create a process for staff to request changes to shift start times.”
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 Zoe’s situation?
In Victoria, it’s against the law for you to be discriminated against or bullied because of industrial activity – for example, being a member of a union.
The Equal Opportunity Act applies to employers of all sizes and covers all types of workers, including full-time, part-time and casual employees, agents and contract workers, and trainees and apprentices. Industrial activity discrimination is against the law in all stages of employment, including recruitment, returning to work after injury or illness, dismissal and retrenchment.
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.
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"When my manager started to bring up photos of me he’d seen or comments I’d made online, well, that’s when I started to feel uncomfortable. He was an OK guy, but he was way older than me and it just felt like a real power imbalance."