Where, under the same circumstances, someone with a disability is treated less favourably than a person without a disability, discrimination is said to have occurred. Discrimination also exists where a condition is imposed which, although the same for everyone, unfairly disadvantages people with a disability.
It's not unlawful to treat people with a disability differently if the intention is to ensure that their special needs are met.
Disability includes physical disability or illness. It also includes intellectual or psychological impairment, psychiatric illness, or other loss or abnormality of psychological or anatomical structure or function.
Reliance on a guide-dog, wheelchair, or other remedial means is included. The presence in the body of organisms capable of causing illness is also covered - e.g., the HIV virus.
The Act covers disabilities which people may have presently, have had in the past, may have in the future or which they are believed to have. It is also unlawful to discriminate against associates of people with a disability, because of that disability - e.g., a spouse, carer or business partner.
People with disabilities are protected from discrimination in: employment; business partnerships; vocational and qualification authorities; access to public places; provision of accomodation; educational establishments; provision of goods and services. Services include banking, insurance and superannuation; grants, loans, credit or finance; services provided by any profession or trade.
If a person is qualified to perform a particular job, it is unlawful to discriminate against that person on the grounds of a disability.
An employer is required to reasonably accomodate the needs of a person with a disability, unless this would cause unreasonable disruption, or pose a risk to health or safety. Reasonable accomodation may include changes to work practices or job design, modifications to equipment or premises, and training or other assistance.
It is only lawful for an employer to ask for information about a candidate's disability if the intention of the request is non-discriminatory - e.g., a person may be asked about their disability so that an employer can take the necessary steps to accommodate this disability.
Employers may be liable for discrimination which they have not taken reasonable steps to prevent. To avoid such liability, employers should have an active equal opportunities policy in place.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can make enquiries at any Human Rights Commission office. Staff will advise you if your complaint falls within the Human Rights Act. If you wish to proceed, the Commission will fully investigate your situation.
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