Recommended Reform of SA Equal Opportunity Act
The South Australian Law Reform Institute has recently conducted a consultation in relation to the SA Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The Institute focused its consultation on the exceptions that currently exist to the legal rules protecting people from unlawful discrimination in South Australia. The Institute received feedback from the Equal Opportunity Commission and others that some teachers in religious schools have experienced unfair treatment because of their sexual orientation.
The Institute has recommended the law be amended to address certain issues including protecting the attributes of gender identity, sexual orientation and intersex status from unlawful discrimination, and preventing religious schools from discriminating against current or potential employees simply due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Institute has highlighted the need to “protect the right of religious bodies to continue to run their places of worship and schools in line with their religious beliefs, and for parents to be able to educate their children at schools in accordance with these beliefs.” Religious schools would retain the right to discriminate on the grounds of religious belief when it comes to employment where the discrimination can be shown to be reasonable in all the circumstances.
The Institute has recommended that features of the current law remain in place including provisions that permit religious and non-religious employers to specify that a particular job be filled by a woman or a man, or a person of a particular sexual orientation, if this can be shown to be a genuine requirement of the job (i.e. staff for single-sex dormitories in boarding houses).
In Western Australia an employer who is a private educational authority or religious body providing a health related service, can discriminate against a person based on their religious beliefs where the duties relate to participation by the employee in religious observance or discrimination is in order to avoid injury to adherents of the religion.