You can stop someone from entering your business, or refuse to serve someone, as long as you don't breach any anti-discrimination laws

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, you're breaching anti-discrimination law if you refuse service to a customer based on certain attributes, such as their:

When you can refuse service?

Discriminating against a customer may be allowed under anti-discrimination law. For example:

  • If you act in a way that reduces a disadvantage for people who experience that disadvantage. For example, if you provide specialised counselling services only to young people or specialised health services for women.
  • When factual evidence supports that the discrimination is reasonable in the circumstances. For example, an insurance company can show that refusal to provide a policy to a person is based on statistic or actuarial data which is reasonable for the company to rely on.

You can refuse to serve a customer as long as you don’t discriminate. Common reasons businesses may refuse service and are not discriminating include:

Dress code

For example, a customer comes to your restaurant with thongs on. You refuse them entry because you have a house rule that bans thongs. This is OK if you apply the rule equally to everyone. Check your local authority laws as dress codes differ from state to state.

Disruptive behaviour

For example, when a group of teenagers approaches your cafe, you refuse entry because the same group has caused trouble before and the police had to be called. This is OK, since you’re refusing them because of your experience of their past behaviour, not because of their age.

Legal requirements

For example, you refuse to serve alcoholic drinks to customers under 18 years of age. This is OK because according to the law you’re not allowed to serve alcohol to under-age customers.

Safety reasons

For example, you refuse entry to an amusement park ride because an 11 year old doesn’t have an adult accompanying them. It’s OK to refuse based on age if there are reasonable safety concerns.

When you can't refuse service?

You cannot refuse service based on an attribute covered by anti-discrimination law. Examples of businesses who would breach anti-discrimination law include:

  • A caravan park refuses to allow a booking for a group of 18 year olds because they’re concerned about them being noisy.
  • A hotel refuses to accept a room booking for a same-sex couple because same-sex relationships make them feel uncomfortable.
  • A coffee shop manager refuses to serve someone because they’ve had other customers of the same racial background cause trouble in the past.
  • A furniture store refuses entry to someone who uses a guide or assistance dog because they are worried the guide dog will cause damage to their products.

Guide, hearing or assistance dogs

You cannot discriminate, refuse entry or service to someone legally accompanied by a working guide, hearing or assistance dog. Even if you generally don't allow customers to bring animals into the premises.

Working guide dogs are assistance animals, and by law, are allowed access to any public areas accessed by customers. This includes indoor and outdoor dining areas, pubs, clubs, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, taxis and public transport.

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