Discrimination in Hiring Practices

Discrimination in Hiring Practices

The Religious Discrimination Bill 2019. It’s not law, and it’s hurting you already.

Jacquie Liversidge

By Jacquie Liversidge

It’s finally happened.

I’ve been waiting to see the ways in which the Religious Discrimination Bill will affect potential candidates. Not yet enshrined in law, it has not yet passed through both Houses of the Parliament, and already those seeking to discriminate have jumped on its potential with fervour.

Today we received a call with an enquiry pertaining to a very unusual clause in a job description.

A Christian University had posted a job seeking applications for the role of lecturer.

All is fine in terms of the position description, nothing discriminatory here—until the references. One reference must be a Christian church pastor.

It is not simply enough for this role to adopt the Christian ethos, or to be a Christian. For this role, you have to have an external referee linked to the Church actively support your application.

This role was not for Archbishop.

It’s for education.

The Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 seeks to “…bring legislative protections for religious belief and activity to the same standard as those already afforded under federal anti-discrimination law to discrimination on the basis of age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, family responsibilities, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, descent or immigrant status.”

But if passed, also allows those who practice religion to act according to that religion in their workplaces.

Think contraception and doctors, or Satanists being satanic.

We are pretty apolitical. But not when it comes to our client’s outcomes.

“You do not want to work for a company that does not have inclusive hiring practices, and even if the role would be perfect for you in terms of your skill set, you won’t get far with a company like that”

So, how is this position description fair?

Doesn’t it go against the principles of meritocracy and fairness in hiring practices?

Yes. Yes, it does.

And it does it covertly so. It means that no matter the standard of your application and your authority in the field, you as an applicant for this role are going to be disqualified if you cannot produce a Christian pastor to speak in support of your application and to verify your status as an active Christian.

Never even mind if you practice a different religion.

This University takes students from all religious backgrounds but wants a very specific person for the role. The words “equitable” and “inclusive” are hovering above my head in red, with question marks.

The way that this role very narrowly avoids breaching anti-discrimination law for each state is through some careful wording.

The selection criteria do not discriminate, the application is open for all, in theory.

But I believe that this role is a candidate for a complaint for unlawful discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

I also believe that the University is potentially leveraging the COVID-19 situation to their advantage in the same way that scammers are; they are assuming that everyone is a bit too preoccupied to deal with it.

So! What do you do when you come up against a role that discriminates against you?

Firstly, I want you to know that no level of desperation for work should ever push you into this kind of scenario where you have to apply for a role that discriminates against you.

You do not want to work for a company that does not have inclusive hiring practices, and even if the role would be perfect for you in terms of your skill set, you won’t get far with a company like that.

You can choose to be bold, and call it out directly to them. You can report the advertisement if it’s listed on a third-party website such as SEEK or Indeed, or you can refer them in a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Or, you can send their job advertisement to the media for a public name and shame.

Discrimination isn’t always overtly detectable. Like the University role I’ve mentioned above, it can be discrete and in the fine print.


Or, it will be straight out and out like the below:


Whilst government roles subscribe to anti-discrimination in hiring practice, frequently due to re-classification of roles or contracts coming up for renewal, there is a preferred candidate in mind for the role.

You can spot whether there is a preferred candidate by reading deep into the requirements. Is there something only a specific person could have? Or something only someone in that role could know?

Despite the best efforts of anti-discrimination legislation, discrimination is a sad reality of life in hiring, and while getting better, is omnipresent.

But it’s not just people who discriminate.

Applicant Tracking Systems, widely in use by mid-to-large companies and organisations can automatically parse the text from your resume against the position description. 

If English is not your first language, you’re at a disadvantage. 

You might be a mathematician and require very little English to do your role, and it will still eliminate you.

Applicant Tracking Systems are fantastic tools for saving the time of the employer, but one might wonder, at what cost to talent acquisition this really comes.


Are you over 50 and have your birth date or the date of your schooling on your resume? Be prepared to take this off immediately, it will be used against you.

An enormous part of our role is hiding parts of our clients that can be discriminated against, and promoting the best aspects of these clients. But you can do this for yourself, too. 

Discrimination is an unfortunate mainstay, and the best that we can offer is to do your best to achieve that interview and let them judge you as a person. 

Avoid jobs that are downright offensive, and report them.

That’s it from us today. 

Keep a beady eye out for those hidden discriminators, and happy hunting!

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