Penny applies for a promotion at work but is told by her manager that they "don't usually put girls in the workshop, the guys just give them a hard time". Instead he tells her that he'll keep her in mind if something comes up in the front of house.

Penny is being treated unfavourably because she is a woman, which is sex discrimination.

Some managers and employers still have old fashioned assumptions about the sort of work women and men are capable – or not capable – of doing.

But in Victoria, it is against the law to discriminate against you at work because of your sex.

What is sex discrimination?

Sex discrimination means treating you unfavourably because of your sex. It can include:

  • not hiring a woman because the boss thinks she won’t fit into a traditionally male workplace
  • offering women and men different rates of pay or benefits for the same job
  • not promoting a woman to a more senior position because it’s assumed the other staff won’t respect her authority
  • dividing up work tasks based on whether staff are male or female
  • insisting women wear different clothing at work to men, for example, short skirts
  • not considering women for a particular role.

Although men may experience discrimination because of their sex, women are more likely to experience sex discrimination – largely due to traditional stereotypes that still exist.

It’s also because women are more likely to care for children or other family members, and because they may become pregnant or need to breastfeed a child.

What does the law say about sex discrimination?

It doesn’t matter whether you are a full-time, part-time, casual or temporary worker, a trainee, apprentice or on probation – Victorian law still protects you from sex discrimination.

You are also protected by the law if you are discriminated against when you apply for a job.

In some cases there might be an exception. Contact us to find out more.


Download free resources about sex discrimination from the Commission, or visit our webpage about sex discrimination in the workplace for more information.

  • Brochure - Know your rights: Sex discrimination and sexual harassment
  • Video - The trouble with women
  • E-card - Prepare your daughter for working life. Pay her less pocket money than your son. Contact the Commission's This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for hard copies of postcards and posters 
  • Infographic - Fast facts on gender inequality

Contact us

If you want to find out more about sex discrimination Contact us