Discrimination at work; marital status

Discrimination in the workplace because of marriage status

Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (Sex Discrimination Act) a person discriminates against another person on the ground of their marital or relationship status if the discrimination occurs by reason of:

 their marital or relationship status

 a characteristic that applies generally to persons with that marital or relationship status, or

 a characteristic that is generally suggested to apply to persons of that marital or relationship status.


Marital or relationship status means the condition of being:

 single

 married

 married but living separately and apart from one’s spouse

 divorced

 widowed, or

 the current or former de facto spouse of another person.


An extended meaning of ‘marital status’ to include the characteristics of a person’s spouse has been rejected by the Courts.

However, this is to be distinguished from a situation where a person acts or makes a decision on the basis of a characteristic which is generally suggested of a person of a particular marital status. For example, where a married woman is denied an opportunity because her husband has been involved in various corrupt activities and it is believed that she, in common with married women generally is susceptible to the corrupting influence of her husband.