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I am currently waitressing at a Chinese Restaurant. A few of the new employees and myself were being taught how to clean the bathrooms to their standards. We started with the females and moved onto the males bathroom.

I attempted but could not push myself to get the job done. I felt extremely uncomfortable so I consulted my manager and added a reasonable solution- the female workers should do the female toilets only unless they are willing to do both and the males bathroom should be delegated to the male staff. Her response was this.

"This issue has been previously brought up but the owners have a strong belief that only women are to do cleaning. We've had male waiters in the past and they haven't cleaned the bathrooms, under the delegation of the owners. If you have an issue with doing the male bathrooms you don't have a position here."

I am wondering if this falls under any discrimination legislation in Australia and if I can successfully take this matter further.

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    The only place you may have a case is with this comment: "This issue has been previously brought up but the owners have a strong belief that only women are to do cleaning. You would need to speak to a union rep or a lawyer to clarify your situation, however. – Jane S Oct 6 '15 at 23:06
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    This is a legal question, so consult a lawyer. However, I would imagine that in Australia it would be considered gender discrimination that employees are assigned duties based on gender. – Kai Oct 6 '15 at 23:11
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    Are you cleaning it while people are using it? – Kilisi Oct 6 '15 at 23:16
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    I have also come to notice that this workplace evades tax. The pay is cash in hand and from the research I have done under Australian Law cash in hand pay is only legal if super is being contributed and tax is being deducted. Neither the latter or the former are in conduct. I will be presenting this to the Australian Taxation Office. Please, feel free to correct me if the information stated is incorrect. – Nicole Oct 7 '15 at 7:32
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    You will absolutely need to see a lawyer about the alleged tax evasion. We cannot give you legal advice. – Jane S Oct 7 '15 at 9:14
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I'm Australian, and I would suggest your best place to start is to look at the Australian Anti-Discrimination Act. There is some good information about what is and what is not classified as discrimination in Australia.

If you have a union representative, I suggest you talk to them, otherwise you can Make a formal written complaint to the governing body. I am not a lawyer, nor have I read the legislation in detail but the fact that women are being asked to clean the toilets and the men are not seems to indicate you are in fact being discriminated against because of your gender.

Looking at this definition in the Federal Sex Discrimination Act (1984), Section 5 seems to back up your suspicions:

For the purposes of this Act, a person discriminates against another person on the ground of the sex of the aggrieved person if, by reason of the sex of the aggrieved person the discriminator treats the aggrieved person less favourably than the discriminator treats or would treat a person of a different sex

Be aware that while you may win this battle, depending on your employer your workplace will unlikely to be pleasant during and afterwards.

  • Do restaurant workers typically have union representation in Australia? I'm American, and I've not seen that here. – Nolo Problemo Oct 7 '15 at 23:08
  • @DaveisNotThatGuy Yes, it is reasonably common. It was at least way, way back in the day when I did some waitressing :) – Jane S Oct 7 '15 at 23:10
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There appear to be two issues here, the gender discrimination (male staff doesn't have to clean) and the physical cleaning of rest rooms.

I leave the gender issue to the other good answers. In regards to cleaning the men's room I don't know about Australia specifically. What I do know is in the US the vast majority of custodial staff is female. They have to clean all parts of their clients locations. You don't get a male janitor just for cleaning the men's room of a building.

The simple solution is a spring loaded rod with "cleaning" on a flag that hangs from it. It is placed in the door at shoulder height and people know the bathroom is being cleaned.

So while you may well have a case against the male staff not doing any cleaning, I don't believe you have much to stand on in not being willing to clean a part of the work place. Sorry.

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    These are not custodial staff, they are wait staff and are being singled out because they are women. The male waiters are not being asked to clean the restrooms, just the female waitresses. – Bill Leeper Oct 7 '15 at 5:02
  • I have also come to notice that this workplace evades tax. The pay is cash in hand and from the research I have done under Australian Law cash in hand pay is only legal if super is being contributed and tax is being deducted. Neither the latter or the former are in conduct. I will be presenting this to the Australian Taxation Office. Please, feel free to correct me if the information stated is incorrect. – Nicole Oct 7 '15 at 7:34
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    @Bill- Not denying that at all. There is clearly discrimination. My point is that even if the male staff starts cleaning, she will still probably have to clean the men's room. And the male staff would have to clean the women's room. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Oct 7 '15 at 17:09
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I have no specific knowledge about Australian discrimination laws, but I don't think they work the way you want.

At best, you could refuse to clean bathrooms at all due to the fact that male waiters don't have to do this. But there is no way to just exclude male bathrooms from your work.

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    I'm Australian, and I'm fairly sure that forcing only women to clean the bathrooms is discrimination. You are correct when you say that you couldn't challenge having to clean both bathrooms, the issue is that the men aren't also cleaning both bathrooms either. – Jane S Oct 6 '15 at 23:26
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    Actually, no. If both the male and female employees had to clean both toilets then yes, absolutely. However the OP clearly states the owners have a strong belief that only women are to do cleaning. Regardless of motivation, this is discrimination, plain and simple. – Jane S Oct 7 '15 at 20:57
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    @JaneS I don't dispute the discrimination, as my answer itself states it. I dispute that her issue is that she is being discriminated. Her problem is feeling uncomfortable doing a specific work. She will feel as uncomfortable when the cleaning of the male bathrooms rotates. The question title states the problem very well and discrimination laws were not made to solve the problem of the title. – John Hammond Oct 7 '15 at 21:46
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    I don't disagree with what you say. It only becomes a "thing" because the men aren't also cleaning the bathrooms. If they were and she refused to clean the men's bathrooms, then she would most likely have no grounds to make a complaint. – Jane S Oct 7 '15 at 21:50
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    It seems to me that the request to avoid a task she doesn't like, revealed the existence of discrimination. But the discrimination does exist. – stannius Oct 8 '15 at 0:17

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