The Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful to discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation. This applies in the areas of employment, access to public places, provision of goods and services, accommodation and education facilities.
Sexual orientation is defined as a heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation. Relatives or associates are also protected against discrimination.
This occurs when a person of one particular sexual orientation is treated less favourable than a person of another sexual orientation in the same or similar circumstances. This also occurs if a person is discriminated against on the presumption of a particular sexual orientation.
When a rule or practice exists which, on the face of it, appears neutral, but in fact has a detrimental effect on people of a particular sexual orientation, indirect discrimination is said to have taken to place.
Employment - it is unlawful to discriminate against employees, job applicants, voluntary workers, people seeking work through employment agents, and contract workers. Discrimination by partnerships, professional or trade associations, qualifying bodies and vocational training bodies is also unlawful.
Accomodation - landlords and real estate agents cannot refuse a person seeking residential or business accommodation because of that person's sexual orientation. Also, they cannot discriminate in this way because of the sexual orientation of a person's relative or associate.
Equally, it is unlawful to provide less favourable terms and conditions in accommodation, or to place a low priority on a person's application for accommodation, because of their sexual orientation. This applies to buying, renting or leasing accommodation as well as a stay in a hotel, motel or caravan park.
Provision of goods and services - it is unlawful to withhold goods, services or facilities, or to provide them on less favourable terms or conditions, because of someone's sexual orientation. Goods and services include banking and insurance, and grants, loans, credit or finance. Services provided by doctors and other professionals are also included.
Access to public places (including vehicles) - it is unlawful to refuse access to or use of a public place on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Educational establishments - the Act also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in educational establishments - e.g., it is unlawful to discriminate against a person seeking admission as a student.
Those who believe they have experienced discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation can ask for assistance from the Human Rights Commission. If the Commission considers that the complaint falls within the law, it will be investigated by Commission staff. If there is substance to the complaint, Commission officers will try to settle the matter. If agreement is not reached, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Complaints Review Tribunal for a hearing.
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