Further court action taken over alleged pregnancy discrimination

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The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched further legal action alleging discrimination against a young employee on the grounds of her pregnancy.

It is the fifth prosecution by the workplace regulator involving discrimination on the grounds of a woman’s pregnancy, and there are concerns the relevant workplace laws are not filtering down to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

“Discriminatory behaviour can include dismissing an employee, threatening to dismiss an employee, reducing an employee’s hours, denying training and promotion opportunities or refusing to employ, promote or train an employee,” the FWO said in a statement.

In a case taken against Felix Corporation Pty Ltd, which operates GV Bargains stores throughout Victoria, FWO is claiming that workplace laws relating to obtaining written agreement before reducing a part-time employee’s regular work hours, keeping employment records and complying with a Notice to Produce employment records were allegedly breached.

If guilty, the individuals responsible could face penalties of up to $6,600 per breach, and the company faces penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

Just last month, the operator of a Perth child care centre was fined $13,200 and ordered to pay $5,000 compensation to an employee pressured into resigning after she became pregnant. At the time of the prosecution, Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said it is the responsibility of employers to make sure they are aware of their obligations under workplace laws and that they treat workers fairly, or face expensive penalties.

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