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Thematic Issue: Abuse of Power / General

Religious Freedom and Job Security


Joellen Riley Munton and Therese MacDermott

Debate on the need for new anti-discrimination laws to address religious discrimination continues in Australia. Claims for greater protection for freedom of religious expression present particular challenges for employers who bear responsibilities to maintain psychologically safe and healthy workplaces for all their employees. The present ‘general protections’ against discriminatory treatment in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) do not adequately deal with complaints of discrimination, largely because of the ease with which employers can excuse adverse action on the basis of their own workplace policies. However, the proposals in the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 (Cth) go too far in seeking to address that weakness. We propose that an alternative model for balancing the respective interests in workplace disputes of this kind would be expanding the workplace bullying and unfair dismissal jurisdictions of the Fair Work Commission, to enable these kinds of conflicts to be managed in a proportionate and balanced manner.

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(2022) 45(1) UNSWLJ 312: