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.
In Victoria it is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because you are pregnant or might become pregnant, or because you are breastfeeding a child or expressing milk. We have developed a resource for employees and employers to understand the law regarding discrimination and pregnancy.
Examples of pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination
April is asked at a job interview if she is planning to have children. The interviewer says he does not want to ‘invest in a woman who is going to cost the business money by taking maternity leave.’
Lee goes to the movies with her baby and a friend. She breastfeeds her baby while waiting to go into the cinema. An usher tells Lee that she cannot feed her baby in the foyer because it is embarrassing other patrons.
Where can discrimination occur?
Discrimination is against the law when it occurs in an area of public life such as clubs, schools and shops, or in the workplace.
Find out more about general places of discrimination or learn more specifically about pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination in employment.
Are there any exceptions to the law?
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some exceptions, which mean that discrimination will not be against the law in particular circumstances.
Positive steps can also be taken to help disadvantaged groups using special measures, which is not discrimination under the law.
If an exception or special measure does not apply, in some circumstances an exemption from the Act may be sought from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
In addition, someone may discriminate against you because you are pregnant or breastfeeding in order to protect your health and safety, including that of your unborn child, and the health and safety of others.
Discriminatory measures should only be taken where there is a real likelihood that your health and safety, or that of other people, is at risk. In this case, the measures taken must be reasonable, and in proportion to the risk.
Anyone who choose to discriminate against you in this way could only do so if there were no other less discriminatory options to protect your health and safety and the health and safety of other people.
Make a complaint to the Commission
If you think you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed, 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:
- contact us by phone, in person or email. We also have a free interpreter service
- submit your complaint online or download our complaint form (DOC, 230KB)
- chat to us online
Find out more about making a complaint.