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Age discrimination

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic.

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic (attribute) protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected attribute.

In Victoria it is against the law for someone to discriminate against you or bully you because of your age or how old people think you are. Age discrimination occurs across all age groups.
Discrimination can be direct or indirect.

Direct age discrimination happens when someone is treated unfavourably because of their age.

Indirect age discrimination happens when a requirement, condition or practice is imposed that disadvantages a person or group because of their age, and is not reasonable.

The positive duty

Duty holders (including employers) must take reasonable measures to prevent discrimination from happening, rather than just respond to complaints that arise. This is called a  ‘positive duty’. Duty holders need to take proactive steps to eliminate discrimination. For example, this could mean scanning the environment and considering if their policies, processes and strategies unreasonably bar people of certain age groups from being recruited. They should put in place changes required to address this.

Examples of age discrimination

Alison is asked her age at a job interview and is then refused the position because the employer wants a younger person for the role.

Eve is employed as a casual employee at a shop. She is made redundant and replaced by a younger person. The manager reveals that he wanted to create a ‘new upbeat feel’ to the shop to attract youthful customers.

Declan and Diana go to a restaurant with their two young daughters aged six and eight. The manager tells them that the restaurant does not serve children under the age of 12, because they might disrupt other diners.

Garry notices his younger co-workers at the factory are receiving training on new machinery. When he asks why he has not been invited to the training sessions, Garry’s supervisor tells him he is getting a bit old to learn new tricks and should stick to what he knows.

A caravan park enforces a rule preventing teenagers from moving around the caravan park after 9pm.

A group of four young people, aged 19 and 21 years of age try to book a cruise with a travel company but are told that their booking will not be accepted because they are not over 21 years of age and want to travel without a legal guardian.

Jim, aged 55, attends a job interview and is asked, ‘What do you want this job for at this late stage of your life?’ His application is unsuccessful.

Where can discrimination occur?

Discrimination is against the law when it occurs in an area of public life such as clubs, education, accommodation, goods and services, sport, schools and shops, or in the workplace.

Find out more about general places of discrimination or learn more specifically about age discrimination in employment

Are there any exceptions to the law?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some exceptions. This means that discrimination may not be against the law in particular circumstances, for example:

  • hiring a person of a particular age when the person will be providing domestic or personal services in a person’s home. This may include caring for, instructing or supervising children or personal care services. An example is when someone of a certain age and gender is required to assist a person in their home with toileting, showering and rehabilitation
  • a situation where an employer discriminates when it is reasonable to protect the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of children in a person’s care
  • hiring a person of a particular age where it is a genuine occupational requirement that a person be a particular age, for example, in a dramatic or an artistic performance, entertainment, photographic or modelling work, when this is necessary for authenticity or credibility
  • an employer may pay an employee who is under the age of 21 years according to the employee's age
  • a person may take a special measure to promote substantive equality for members of a group with a particular attribute. (For example, an employer could promote employment of older workers when they can demonstrate that older workers within the industry face discrimination and that the measure seeks to address this disadvantage.)

Discrimination based on your age may also be allowed in the following circumstances:

  • the eligible age to vote or drink alcohol at licensed premises being restricted to adults aged 18 years and over
  • hostel accommodation established for the welfare of a particular age group being limited to catering to that age group
  • benefits, such as discounted cinema tickets targeting a specific age group, for example, people over 65 years
  • participation in an education program or attendance at a school being restricted to particular age groups
  • participation in a sporting activity being limited to a specified age or age group, for example, a basketball team for people under 19
  • clubs restricting membership or benefits to particular age groups
  • laws restricting alcohol consumption and sale, and the purchase of cigarettes, to people over a specified age
  • age-based conditions being applied to a superannuation fund in certain circumstances.

Make a complaint to the Commission

If you think you have been discriminated againstsexually harassedvictimised or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns. Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.

To make a complaint:

Find out more about making a complaint.

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