The Fair Work Ombudsman received around 25 complaints of workplace sexuality discrimination in a year when discrimination complaints to the ombudsman were up 46 percent.

Sexuality-based complaints made up only 2 percent of complaints, but still doubled the number of complaints of workplace discrimination over religion. The most common complaint was discrimination on the grounds of a physical or mental disability, making up 20 percent of complaints.

The Ombudsman has had the power to investigate discrimination in the workplace since the Fair Work Act took effect on July 1 2009. A specialist anti-discrimination team has been established within the agency’s Complex Investigations & Innovation branch.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson (pictured) said every employee had the right to work without fear of discrimination.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman has been proactive about educating employers and workers that discrimination in the workplace is unlawful,” Wilson said.

“We want workers to be aware of what sorts of behaviours constitute discrimination and to know they can turn to the Fair Work Ombudsman for help. One of the best defences for workers against being discriminated against at work is an awareness of their workplace rights.

“Employers also need to be aware that it is unlawful to discriminate against workers and that they can be prosecuted for doing so. Last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman ran education and awareness campaigns on age discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and sexual orientation and preference.”

The Ombudsman assessed 1171 complaints relating to workplace discrimination in financial year 2010-2011 compared to 801 in 2009-10.

Complaints based on age accounted for 13 percent of complaints.

Four percent of complaints related to social origin, 2 percent to race, 2 percent to ethnicity, 2 percent to political opinion and 1 percent to marital status.

INFO: www.fairwork.gov.au The Fair Work Infoline on 131 394 operates 8am-6pm weekdays.

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