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Impairment discrimination is common

Finding employment or accessing buildings, venues and public facilities when you have an impairment (disability) can be hard.

People with an impairment are also twice as likely to be unemployed.

In addition, young people with an impairment are more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace.

A person with an impairment has the right to the same employment opportunities as a person without an impairment, under discrimination laws.

Despite this, many employers mistakenly believe that hiring someone with an impairment will cost them more.

However, there are many government schemes available to offset the cost of making reasonable adjustments in the workplace for a person with an impairment.

What is impairment discrimination?

Impairment (disability) discrimination happens when someone with an impairment is treated less fairly than someone without an impairment.

Unlawful discrimination can also happen when people are treated less favourably because they are relatives, friends, or a carer of a person with an impairment.

Indirect discrimination happens when there is policy or rule that has an unfair effect on people with a particular impairment.

For example, it may be indirect impairment discrimination if the only way to enter a public building is by a set of stairs.

As a result, it is impossible for someone in a wheelchair to gain access.

The law

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for an employer or co-worker to treat you unfairly because of your impairment.

People who are relatives, friends and carers of people with a disability or impairment are also protected by the DDA.

The DDA also covers people who are discriminated against because:

  • They are accompanied by an assistant, interpreter or reader, or
  • They are accompanied by a trained animal, such as a guide dog or hearing dog, 
  • Or they use equipment or an aid, such as a wheelchair, guide stick, or a hearing aid

In Queensland, the Anti-Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their impairment, which can include things like:

  • the total or partial loss bodily functions; the malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of a person’s body
  • mental illnesses, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia
  • visual impairment and blindness, hearing impairment and deafness,
  • learning difficulties, epilepsy, autism and intellectual disabilities

The Act also covers impairments related to diseases such as hepatitis, AIDS and HIV.

Harassment because of an impairment, such as insults or humiliating jokes, is also unlawful in the workplace.

How we can help

Our team of Australian employment lawyers and industrial advocates at Human Rights Claims are specialists in discrimination matters.

Workers experiencing discrimination because of an impairment, may be entitled to:

  • compensation,
  • or an apology,
  • or reinstatement if you have been dismissed from employment.

We can represent you in the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant court or tribunal.

We can advise you of your best options moving forward to ensure that you get the outcome you are looking for.

Make no mistake, we will not give up fighting until we have achieved justice for you.


If you are dismissed from employment because of an impairment, you only have 21 days from the date of dismissal to file a claim, so don’t delay!

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LAST UPDATED: March 2022

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