Sex was the first attribute protected by Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act forty years ago.
Specifically, it addressed the discrimination women experienced in the workplace because of their marital status and sex, along with related characteristics, such as pregnancy and sexual harassment.
It’s hard to believe now, but some of the ‘basic problems’ identified by the Equal Opportunity Board in 1977 included:
- advertisements discriminating on the basis of sex and marital status.
- public bars not serving women.
- some employers retrenching on a “women off first basis”.
- some banks would not lend money to women without male guarantor or be offered a different interest rate to men
- some jobs being treated as solely single sex, such as train drivers and kindergarten teachers.
However, a few of the problems identified forty years ago still sound familiar today:
- Female workers were less likely than men to be paid award wages.
- Women were excluded from full membership of golf and racing clubs.
- Landlords wouldn’t rent to single people.
What are my rights?
The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 makes it against the law to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sex.
For more information about the law see:
- Sex discrimination
- Carer and parental status discrimination
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination
- Sex discrimination in the workplace
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination in the workplace
- Carer and parental status discrimination in the workplace
Sexual harassment is also against the law under the Equal Opportunity Act.
Most of the sexual harassment complaints we receive at the Commission are about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Making a complaint about discrimination
If you feel you have been discriminated against, sexually harassed or victimised, you or someone one your behalf can make a complaint to the Commission.
We will help resolve your complaint through our free, fair, timely dispute resolution service.
You can also make an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to have a Tribunal Member decide whether there has been discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.
Resources about women's rights
- Brochure: Know your rights - Sex discrimination and sexual harassment - Jun 2014
- Brochure: Know your rights – Pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination - Jun 2014
- Brochure: Know your rights – Parental and carer status discrimination - Jun 2014
- Pregnancy and work: Know your rights and obligations - Jun 2017
- Poster – If you think it's sexual harassment it probably is
- Volunteers and the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 - Know your rights - Sep 2011
- International Women's Day Infographic - Mar 2019
- Guideline: Sexual harassment > Complying with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010