Your rights during COVID-19

Discrimination is against the law in certain areas, including

  • employment
  • education
  • providing goods and services
  • accommodation
  • registered clubs.

Your rights during the pandemic

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions, you have the right to live in an environment free of discrimination.

You have the right not to be discriminated against because of your race, your pregnancy, your illness or your responsibilities as a carer. There are a number of other protected characteristics under NSW anti-discrimination law.

Face masks and anti-discrimination law

If you are a person with disability and believe you have been treated unfairly because you can’t wear a mask, you may be able to make a complaint of disability discrimination. The law is complex and there are public health exceptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act that may apply. Learn more.

Vaccinations and anti-discrimination law

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) does not cover discrimination based on vaccination status unless this is linked to a genuine disability. The Act does not have any general human rights protections in relation to freedom of thought or expression, or religious or ethical beliefs against vaccinations. It does not cover refusal of service or employment issues if you are unvaccinated because of these reasons. 

Please visit our What is discrimination? page to see the types of discrimination covered by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). 

If you are a person with disability and believe you have been treated unfairly because you can’t get vaccinated, you may be able to make a complaint of disability discrimination. If you make a complaint on this basis, you will need to advise us of your disability and how it prevents you from getting vaccinated. 

The law is complex and evolving.

Please visit the Fair Work Ombudsman for information and guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace.

Please read our statement about vaccine passports.

As our infectious diseases discrimination page explains, there are exceptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) for compliance with other laws and for reasonable measures to protect public health. It is not unlawful to discriminate against someone if the discrimination is necessary to comply with another law or regulation, including public health orders. If public health orders are made, you must follow them. 

If you have concerns about government-mandated vaccinations, you should contact your local Member of Parliament.

Examples of unlawful discrimination

  • Your employment is terminated because you have COVID-19 or someone in your family has COVID-19.

  • Your employer downsizes because of COVID-19, and with changes being rolled out in your workplace you are treated differently to your colleagues, on the basis of your pregnancy or your responsibilities as a carer.

  • Your rental agreement is terminated because you’re a doctor, nurse or health worker and the landlord is worried that you will be infected with COVID-19 and will contaminate the property.

  • You are abused in public because of your race. Race includes colour, nationality, descent, ethnic and/or ethno-religious background.

  • You are denied service at a shop because of your race.

Your responsibilities during the pandemic

You have a responsibility to follow the laws and restrictions that are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest COVID-19 information, including rules and restrictions, can be found on the NSW Government website. The NSW Government website also has information about face mask rules

You also have a responsibility to not discriminate against anyone or treat them unfairly because of their race, because you think they have COVID-19 or for any other characteristic that is protected by the NSW legislation. 

Visit our COVID-19 page for updates about our services.

Last updated:

12 Oct 2021

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the ongoing connection Aboriginal people have to this land and recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of this land.

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