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Home Features Don’t spit the dummy: merit and discrimination in the workplace
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A dummy job application was intended to demonstrate discrimination, but backfired on the well-meaning employee. There are better ways to seek remedy if you suspect merit isn’t being used correctly at work.
Having been passed over for promotion time and time again, a long-standing employee of the Australian Taxation Office thought that he was being deliberately over-looked for illegitimate reasons. The aggrieved public servant filed an adverse action claim, alleging racial discrimination. His evidence? He had applied for a position and simultaneously submitted a ‘dummy application’ with identical credentials but a different name. The dummy applicant was short-listed; the real employee was not.
Not only was this claim unsuccessful, but the employee ultimately had his employment terminated. His affidavit outlining the use of the “dummy application”, which he had hoped would be damning proof of discrimination, instead became evidence that he had breached the APS Code of Conduct.
Unsurprisingly, submitting false job applications and making false declarations to your employer are not effective ways to secure a promotion. However, it is not hard to sympathise with someone who felt they were being discriminated against in the workplace and adopted a creative approach to prove it.
In Australia, protections against discrimination are broadly drafted. Generally speaking, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.
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The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.
John Wilson is the managing legal director of Bradley Allen Love in Canberra and an accredited specialist in industrial relations and employment law. He has twice appeared on the Best Lawyers list, and has an extensive public sector employment practice.
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So why did the dummy application get shortlisted and the real one not?
That wasn’t addressed in the article and remains a very interesting topic.