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Dear Dorothy… help me with Equal Opportunity…

Dear Dorothy

I am not sure what my rights are regarding what is happening to me at the moment. I thought everything was OK at the school that I have been doing some relief work in. I haven’t had any issues with the students and I seem to have been getting along well with staff, but the principal told me that if I wanted to work here any longer I would have to have a haircut because he didn’t think it was OK for males to wear a ponytail. My hair is always clean and neat but I have always worn it long because I am in a band with some friends in my spare time and it wouldn’t look right to have short back and sides. I don’t feel this is right but I don’t know what to do.


Dear Concerned

It sounds as though you are being treated less favourably because of your gender. If you feel that this is the case because if you complied and had your hair cut you would definitely have ongoing employment, but will not if you don’t, you can talk to your IEU Organiser. They can support you to lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission. The Commission is there to carry out the functions of the Equal Opportunity Act SA 1984. This Act makes discrimination against the law in South Australia when it is:

  • is based on a particular personal characteristic or ground specified in the Act happens in an area of public life; and
  • causes loss or humiliation.

Areas where discrimination is unlawful are:

  • age
  • association with a child (in customer service or accommodation)
  • caring responsibilities
  • disability
  • gender identity
  • marital or domestic partnership status
  • intersex status
  • pregnancy
  • race
  • religious appearance or dress (in work or study)
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • spouse or partner’s identity.

The Equal Opportunity Commission is a jurisdiction that the IEU has not needed to use very often as members are often reluctant to name discriminatory behaviour and make a complaint. One of the issues with outcomes from the Commission is that the terms of the agreed settlement are usually confidential. This means that while the individual complainant may be satisfied with the outcome, it does not serve as any sort of example or cautionary tale for other employers who may be inclined to act in a similar discriminatory way. You can find the Act here and you can have a look at the functions of the EO Commission on their webpage

Regards Dorothy