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Employers and others may be legally barred from discriminating against someone based on their criminal past following an "overdue" review of Queensland laws.

The Queensland Human Rights Commission has been asked to consider widening who is protected under the state's Anti-Discrimination Act in a review announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

That includes whether people should be protected from discrimination based on their "spent criminal conviction or irrelevant criminal record; expunged homosexual conviction; irrelevant medical record; immigration status; employment activity; and physical features", the review's terms of reference reveals.

It could mean a recommendation to the government to enshrine in law that a person cannot turn down a prospective employee for a job, like a supermarket cashier, if the person has an irrelevant criminal record, like for public drunkenness.

Or a person may not be able to reject a rental application from a person solely based on their criminal record, so long as it wasn't relevant.

However, an employer could reject an applicant if their criminal past was relevant, like a person with a fraud conviction applying for a job handling a company's finances.

The Commission will also consider situations where a person's health history might be used discriminatorily as a reason to not employ an applicant, and physical features, like height and weight.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman. Picture: Tara Croser.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman. Picture: Tara Croser.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the review was "overdue" and would be looking at everything through a modern lens.

"It has been 30 years since the Anti-Discrimination Act was introduced in Queensland Parliament and it is crucial our laws continue to reflect contemporary standards and protect our diverse communities," she said.

"This review will look at areas of reform that will best protect and promote equality, as well as consider the need to protect additional attributes of discrimination.

"Any recommendations would be considered by the government and any proposed changes would be the subject of further extensive consultation with stakeholders."

The review will also consider how to make it easier for defendants bringing a complaint to improve justice for victims, and will provide options for legally requiring all employers to take positive measures to eliminate sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall has welcomed the review "to make sure that it is up to dealing with the challenges of modern Queensland".

"A lot can change in 30 years, and the Queensland of today is not the Queensland of 1991," he said.

The Commission has been asked to consult widely and report to Ms Fentiman by June 2022.

Originally published as Bosses may soon be forced to ignore employees' criminal pasts



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