Protecting transgender employees is not on Porter’s agenda

Federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, says the government has no plan to add workplace protections for transgender, intersex and gender diverse people.

Porter responded to an enquiry from just.equal about the inadequacies of workplace laws to protect trans, intersex and gender diverse employees.

The Minister’s office said no change to existing law is being considered, prompting advocates to look to Labor and the ACTU to push the change.

LGBTIQ+ rights organisation just.equal wrote to Porter in August, explaining that definitions used in the Fair Work Act (FWA) 2009 and Sex Discrimination Act (SDA)1984, created inconsistencies, vulnerability and additional costs for trans folk seeking redress from adverse action or unlawful termination.

Spokesperson for just.equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said the lobby group had proposed the Fair Work Act be amended to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘intersex status’ as grounds for lodging a complaint of workplace discrimination so it mirrors protections currently in the Sex Discrimination Act.

Responding on behalf of the Minister, Assistant Secretary Breen, wrote that while the government “noted the discrepancies” between the two Acts the government is “not proposing any change.”

“At this point in time, the Australian Government has not indicated an intention to amend the Fair Work Act to explicitly include gender identity or intersex status as grounds for lodging an adverse action or unlawful termination application,” Breen wrote.

Hinton-Teoh said the response was very disappointing and illustrated a lack of concern from the Federal Government about the increasing discrimination against trans people in recent years.

“It’s not a lot to ask that the definitions used in the SDA also be used in the FWA. This is a tiny legislative change but would make a huge difference to many people,” he said.

The letter from the Attorney General’s office stated that: “The Australian Government believes that all people are entitled to respect, dignity and the opportunity to participate in society and receive the protection of the law regardless of their gender identity or intersex status.

“The Government also recognises that people may identify and be recognised within the community as a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth or during infancy or as a gender which is not exclusively male or female.”

Trans community advocate, Dr Charlie Burton, said Mr Porter’s words were not matched with action.

“If the Government recognises the existence of trans and intersex people, and believes we are entitled to receive the protection of the law, then fixing up the Fair Work Act with a simple amendment to help achieve this goal is a no-brainer,” Dr Burton said.

Just.equal has written to Labor’s Shadow Industrial Relations’ Minister Tony Burke and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus prompting them to take the initiative on amending the Fair Work Act. It is awaiting responses from both.

Source: Media Release

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