This article was written by Kathryn Sampias

Kathryn Sampias has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Kathryn was admitted to practice in 2005 and practised law for more than eight years, working both in private practice (mainly in defence litigation for professional indemnity disputes) and in the public service for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in enforcement.

EEO Meaning Equal Employment Opportunity


EEO meaning Equal Employment Opportunity is the principle that every person, regardless of attributes such as race, gender or sexual orientation, has an equal opportunity to find employment based on merit. In Australia, several pieces of legislation seek to ensure equal opportunity and prevent discrimination in the workplace. Most states also have similar legislation.

EEO legislation Australia

Some of the pieces of equal opportunity legislation at the federal level include:

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has the power to enforce this legislation. If a person believes they have been discriminated against in a manner that is prohibited by this legislation, they can lodge a complaint with the AHRC.

The relevant state or territory legislation and bodies that seek to enforce EEO as well as prevent discrimination are as follows:

EEO in New South Wales

In New South Wales, the legislation that governs EEO is the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). This legislation prohibits discrimination, among other things, on the grounds of race, work status, gender identity and sexual orientation. This legislation also prohibits harassment in the workplace.

Under this piece of legislation, the Anti-Discrimination Board is established. A discrimination complaint can be taken to this board by anyone who feels they have been discriminated against, or by someone acting on their behalf.

Equal Employment Opportunity in Victoria

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) is the piece of legislation that seeks to ensure EEO in Victoria. This legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a protected personal characteristic. The protected personal characteristics include age, breastfeeding, disability, marital status, political belief or activity, race, parental status or status as a carer, lawful sexual activity and pregnancy. This Act does not only cover equal opportunity and discrimination at work, but it also covers the areas of education, the provision of goods and services and accommodation. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has certain powers under this legislation to enforce the law and conduct investigations into suspected breaches.

This legislation also makes it unlawful to sexually harass someone or victimise them for asserting their rights under the legislation and creates a positive duty for organisations to create plans to prevent discrimination from happening.

Equal Employment Opportunity in Queensland

EEO in Queensland is protected by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld). Discrimination is prohibited by this Act on the basis of, among other things, sex, relationship status, impairment, religious belief or activity, sexuality or family responsibilities. The areas where discrimination is prohibited include work, the provision of goods and services, the provision of accommodation, insurance, superannuation, education, club memberships and affairs and the administration of state laws and programs. This legislation gives the Queensland Human Rights Commission the power to hear complaints about discrimination or other conduct prevented under this Act.

EEO in South Australia

The relevant South Australian legislation for the protection of EEO is the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA). Section 30 of this Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person on the ground of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity of intersex status. It is both unlawful to discriminate in determining who should be employed, in offering the terms and conditions of employment, in the actual terms and conditions of employment, by denying or limiting access to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, by dismissing the employee or by subjecting the employee to a detriment.

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA), as well as protecting EEO in workplaces, also prevents discrimination in other areas such as in education and in the provision of goods and services, accommodation or land. It also prohibits conduct such as sexual harassment and victimisation.

The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in South Australia has the power to hear complaints under this legislation.

EEO in Western Australia

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA) is the legislation that seeks to ensure EEO in Western Australia. It prevents discrimination in several areas of public life, including employment. Among other things, this legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, marital status, pregnancy or breast feeding. The Commissioner for Equal Opportunity has the right to hear complaints in relation to discrimination in accordance with the Act.

Equal Employment Opportunity in Tasmania

In Tasmania, the relevant legislation relating to EEO is the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas). This legislation prevents discrimination based on various personal attributes apart from in some specific circumstances where exemptions apply. The relevant personal attributes include relationship status, parental status, religious belief or affiliation, irrelevant criminal record, irrelevant medical record and association with a person who has or is believed to have, any of these attributes. In Tasmania, the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner has the right to hear complaints relating to discrimination that breaches the legislation. Sexual harassment, victimisation and inciting hatred are also prohibited under this legislation. In addition to employment, the areas covered by this legislation include education and training, provision of facilities, goods and services, accommodation, membership of activities of clubs, administration of any state law or program and awards, enterprise agreements or industrial agreements.

EEO in Australian Capital Territory

The Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT) protects EEO in the Australian Capital Territory. This Act prevents discrimination, or the treatment of a person unfavourably, because that person has a specified personal attribute that is protected. These personal attributes include accommodation status, age, breastfeeding, disability, employment status, physical features, political conviction and race. In addition to in the area of employment, this legislation also applies to the areas of education, access to premises, goods, services and facilities accommodation, clubs and requests for information. The legislation specifies that it must be interpreted in a way that is beneficial to people with protected attributes.

EEO in Northern Territory

The legislation in the Northern Territory relating to EEO is the Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 (NT). According to this legislation, discrimination is prohibited in employment on the basis of attributes such as race, sex, sexuality, age or marital status. The Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination Commission has the ability to hear complaints about alleged discrimination. In addition to employment, this legislation prevents discrimination in other areas, such as education, accommodation, goods, services and facilities, clubs, insurance and superannuation.

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