“Discrimination has no place in any Australian workplace and will not be tolerated,” the Fair Work Ombudsman has said after a restaurant was fined for its actions against a pregnant waitress.
In October 2018, the Ombudsman said it was launching legal action against the operators of upmarket South Perth restaurant Coco’s.
It alleged that the operator, Jewel Bay 2015 and its director, Abdel Wahid Tajeddine, has breached anti-discrimination provisions in the Fair Work Act by allegedly telling the woman to go home because she “looks disgusting” and “can’t move as fast as other staff” before reducing her shifts three months after being informed of her pregnancy as her baby bump became visible.
At the time, the FWO said the employee had lodged her concerns in writing to her employer but did not receive a response.
This week, the regulator revealed that the duo had admitted to the allegations, leading the Federal Circuit Court to fine the company $31,500 and Mr Tajeddine personally $6,300.
It quoted the presiding judge as stating that the comments “convey an entirely unacceptable view of pregnant women in modern Australia”.
Additionally, they were ordered to pay compensation of a further $7,000 to the woman.
“Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin,” Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in a statement after the judgment was handed down.
“Discrimination has no place in any Australian workplace and will not be tolerated by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Employers must ensure that they treat all employees fairly and lawfully.”
She added: “Any employee with concerns about workplace discrimination should contact us.”
Coco’s Restaurant has been approached for comment.
Protected attributes under workplace discrimination rules
As the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website explains, pregnancy is one of 13 personal attributes protected under the Fair Work Act.
The others are:
- family or carer’s responsibilities
- marital status
- national extraction
- physical or mental disability
- political opinion
- sexual orientation
- social origin
By law, employers are prevented from taking “adverse action” against employees or jobseekers because of these attributes, with adverse action being both the threat, organising or carrying out of any of the following:
- sacking an employee
- “injuring” an employee in their employment, such as denying them pay or leave entitlements
- changing an employee’s job to their disadvantage
- treating an employee differently than others
- not hiring someone
- offering a potential employee different and unfair terms and conditions compared to other employees
The Fair Work Ombudsman has a Managing underperformance guide on its website, which is designed to help employers navigate people management and underperformance without breaching anti-discrimination rules.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.