"Young" agent wins compensation claim

A Melbourne-based real estate agency that dismissed a female employee for her “overall young look” has agreed to pay $1,200 compensation and amend its workplace policies.

Buxton (Sandringham) Pty Ltd, a franchise of the Buxton Group, has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with Fair Work after it discriminated against the employee. It was found to have dismissed the employee because of her “overall young look”, the Fair Work Ombudsman said.

According to a statement from Fair Work, the woman was employed as a personal assistant on a casual basis in June, 2010, when she was 23 - but dismissed a month later, shortly after she had assisted at an auction by recording bids.

A male sales consultant told her that some of the company’s directors who had seen her at the auction were concerned she looked too young, was too short and would not have the presence to effectively negotiate at auctions. He said he “needed someone he could turn into a sales person and that this was not possible for her because of her overall young look.”

Fair Work said that the consultant terminated her employment, saying: “The reason I have done this now is because the training I would need to do would be a waste of time if I then have this concern six months later”.

An official complaint lodged by the employee prompted a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation, and after the co-operation of Buxton (Sandringham), the Fair Work Ombudsman has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the company as an alternative to litigation.

As part of the Enforceable Undertaking, the company has agreed to apologise to the former employee and pay her $1,200 compensation for the six weeks following her dismissal in which she was not able to gain alternative employment.

The company has also agreed to develop new recruitment and termination policies, commission workplace relations compliance training for its directors and alert other Buxton Group franchisees to its breach.

Real Estate Business attempted to contact Buxton Group and Buxton Sandringham, although no one was available for comment at the time of writing.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says it is important for employers to treat their employees fairly and be aware of their obligations under workplace laws.

“Employers who have fair and transparent selection processes for recruitment, promotion, training and other business systems will be well placed to cultivate fair workplaces free of discrimination,” he said.

Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

Discriminatory behaviour can include dismissing an employee, threatening to dismiss an employee, denying training and promotion opportunities or refusing to employ, promote or train an employee.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has had the power to investigate discrimination in the workplace since the Fair Work Act commenced on July 1, 2009.

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