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Workplace Discrimination (NT)

A person who experiences workplace discrimination in the Northern Territory can rely on protections under both territory and federal law. All NT employees are covered by the national fair work laws set out in the Fair Work Act 2009. Workplace discrimination is also prohibited under the Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Act. This page deals with complaining about workplace discrimination in the NT.

What is workplace discrimination?

In the NT, section 20 of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 defines discrimination as occurring when:

  • a person makes a distinction, restriction, exclusion or preference on the basis of an attribute that nullifies or impairs equality of opportunity; or
  • a person harasses a person on the basis of an attribute.

Section 19 of the Act sets out a list of attributes upon which discrimination is unlawful. These include:

  • sex
  • age
  • impairment
  • parenthood
  • pregnancy
  • marital status
  • irrelevant criminal record
  • sexuality
  • trade union activity, and
  • political or religious opinion.

Under the Anti-Discrimination Act, a person must not be treated unfavourably on the basis of a prescribed attribute, or on the basis of a characteristic that is imputed to a person with that attribute. 

Associated conduct

The Act also prohibits conduct that is associated with discrimination such as sexual harassment and victimisation.

Sexual harassment is defined as an unwanted request or demand for sexual favours, or an unwanted act of physical intimacy, with the intention of humiliating or offending the person on the receiving end, or where it is reasonably foreseeable that the person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

Victimisation occurs where an individual is treated less favourably because he or she exercises a right to make a complaint of discrimination, or because he or she proposes to do so, or because he or she intends to give evidence in support of a complaint under the Act.

Complaining to the Anti-Discrimination Commission about workplace discrimination

A person who experiences workplace discrimination in the NT may complain to the NT Anti-Discrimination Commission. The Commissioner has jurisdiction to investigate a complaint in any manner they see fit, after which they may:

  • dismiss the complaint
  • refer it to conciliation, or
  • order that it proceed to hearing if it appears it cannot be resolved via conciliation.

A complaint must be made within six months of the alleged discrimination. The Commissioner may accept a complaint which is lodged after the six-month time limit has expired. However, a complainant must detail why he or she is late in making the complaint and demonstrate that the complaint has merit.

If the Commission hears a matter and determines that discrimination has occurred, it may:

  • order the payment of compensation of up to $60,000;
  • order the respondent to apologise;
  • order that the respondent refrain from the conduct and not repeat it; and
  • make any other order it considers necessary to achieve redress for the complainant.

Complaining to the Fair Work Commission

A worker in the NT who experiences workplace discrimination may also be entitled to complain to the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

If a worker has their employment terminated as a consequence of discriminatory conduct, they may bring an application to the FWC under section 365 of the Fair Work Act 2009. This application must be brought within 21 days of the termination of employment.

If discriminatory conduct has not resulted in the termination of employment but has resulted in other adverse action such as demotion or denial of opportunities, then an application may be made to FWC under section 372 of the Act.

Complaining to the Human Rights Commission

A person who has been unlawfully discriminated against by an employer or potential employer can also complain to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which may investigate and conciliate the complaint.

The outcome of a complaint may be an apology, reinstatement to a job or compensation for lost wages.

If the applicant is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint, they may make an application to the Federal Court of Australia or to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

If you require legal advice about workplace discrimination in the NT or about any other legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers. 


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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