Young people in the workplace - Activity sheet 2
Case studies at work
The following hypothetical case studies present a number of
scenarios where you can examine the potential legal rights and
the legal responsibilities applicable to both employees and
employers in the workplace.
Using the space provided, answer the questions presented about
each scenario. In doing so, try to identify behaviours you see as
inappropriate and comment on what avenues are available to ensure
the workplace is free from unlawful discrimination and
In formulating your answers, refer to the Aspects of the law
resource sheet and identify any aspects of inappropriate
behaviour that are based on:
- discrimination and harassment
- stereotyping and assumptions
- power relationships between people
- workplace atmosphere and productivity levels
- the potential losses to business due to conflict
- the impact on the person's job and career
Case study 1
Alexandra is an apprentice chef at Cafe Claude's.
Basil, the head chef, pays her a lot of attention. At first she
feels flattered, but when he starts touching and cuddling her she
is worried. She wants him to stop, but is afraid that if she says
anything she might lose her job or strain the working
1a. What actions can Alexandra take to stop the unwanted
1b. What responsibilities have Basil and Café Claude's
got to ensure the workplace is free of discrimination and
Case study 2
Donna is being interviewed for a training position as
a commercial pilot. The interviewer, Eric, says how impressed he
is with Donna. He then asks Donna about her personal life and
plans she may have regarding marriage and children before the
training is finished. Donna replies that she does not think the
question is relevant to the job. Eric says that he is asking it
to ensure that the company gets some return for the cost of
2a. How is Eric's behaviour inappropriate?
2b. What can Donna do to make sure her employment is not
adversely affected by Eric's attitude?
Case study 3
John works in a fashion design company. He is good at
his job but some of the customers make it known that they prefer
to deal with women - they say that because he is a man he is
unlikely to understand their requirements. When the supervisor,
Fran, has to choose some workers to go on a new sales course
designed to advance career prospects, she does not choose John
because "there's no point training him for sales when people
don't want to buy from him".
3a. What areas of the law is John protected under in terms of
3b. What is Fran's responsibility to the customers who prefer
to deal with women?
Case study 4
Ho is a nineteen year old man from a Cambodian
background. When Ho's job requires him to deal directly with a
supplier, he is told, "I'll deal directly with the boss, not you,
refugee". Ho explains the situation to his boss, Iannis, who says
he will deal with the supplier personally. Ho is humiliated and
angry, but decides not to raise the issue with Iannis again for
fear of being seen as weak and unable to handle the
4a. What can Ho do about the supplier's behaviour?
4b. What should Iannis have done when Ho came to him?
Case study 5
Jemal is a devout Muslim who wears the traditional
head covering, the hijab. Most of the workers at her place of
employment have no problem with Jemal's dress. One colleague,
however, Kalia, constantly mocks her for her beliefs, and calls
her names. At times when Jemal is fasting, Kalia keeps putting
food on her desk. Jemal gets very upset. She is uncomfortable
with the situation and sometimes becomes ill with worry and stays
5a. What responsibility does Jemal have to her employer?
5b. What rights should the company be protecting in this
5c. Should the other employees be involved in Kalia's
Case study 6
Melanie works in a large restaurant. She is keen to
make a career in the hospitality industry. This is her first job
and, like everyone else, she sometimes makes mistakes. Her boss,
Neil, suggests that they go out. Melanie does not want to and
declines the invitation. Trying to ease the situation, she
suggests that she might change her mind in the future. Neil
comments: "That's OK, but the way you're working there might not
be a future". Melanie now thinks that she might only keep her job
if she goes out with Neil.
6a. What sort of behaviour is Neil demonstrating to
6b. Are there any reasons Melanie should go out with Neil?
Case study 7
Oswald has a Nigerian background. Having worked
part-time for a few months, he applies for a full-time position
that has become vacant in his department. His manager, Peter,
says that he has to choose between several candidates, but has
found in the past that Nigerians and other African people are not
as responsible or reliable as others, but he will think about
7a. What steps can Oswald take to ensure his application is
7b. Is there anything wrong with Peter's comment, given that
he has dealt with other Nigerians?
Case study 8
Quentin needs a wheelchair to be mobile. His
department manager, Ronnie, thinks he is a good worker but
refuses to install ramps in a section of the department store
where they work. This means that there are parts of the store
that Quentin cannot access, and some types of work that he cannot
gain experience in.
8a. Whose responsibility is it to ensure Quentin can get to
all parts of the store?
8b. Is additional experience part of Quentin's workplace
Case study 9
Talia has an Eritrean background. She works part-time
in a hamburger shop called 'Vinny's'. Una often works the same
shift. She calls Talia names like 'golliwog' and 'monkey face'.
When Talia objects, she is told by Una to "go back where you came
from then". Talia tries to avoid being near Una but has not
reported the insults to Vinny for fear she might lose her
9a. What responsibility does Vinny have for Una's
9b. What responsibility does Talia have for Una's
9c. Is Una's behaviour unlawful?
Case study 10
Wilhelm's family came to Australia from Holland when
he was 15. He picked up the English language quickly, but speaks
it with a strong Dutch accent. Yul, whose family is Russian, came
to Australia as a baby. He often mocks Wilhelm about his accent,
saying that he "speaks like a wog". Their employer, Zara, laughs
when she hears this, and tells Wilhelm not to worry; he'll soon
lose his accent and be able to speak properly.
For now, though, when a promotional opportunity
arises, he is told his English is too poor and the promotion is
given to somebody else.
10a. Is there anything that Zara should be doing for
10b. Is there anything that Zara should be doing to Yul?
Every one of these situations may be harmful and unfair for
the individuals. A workplace must be safe, comfortable and fair,
and the employer has a responsibility to ensure there are formal
ways of having any problems sorted out.
Australian Parliaments have identified major areas where they
are prepared to have special laws to protect people's fundamental
sense of identity, their sense of who they are. These areas
include race or ethnicity, gender, age, and disability. For this
reason, specific laws against discrimination and harassment have
The law recognises special areas and makes explicit the
boundaries of acceptable behaviour. This gives everybody the same
set of guidelines about how to behave in a public environment
like a workplace. These laws protect individuals' human rights
and help society as a whole function successfully with respect