DCA has made a submission to the Commonwealth Anti-Discrimination law review.
In considering an appropriate cost model, we note the findings in Respect@Work that the risk of a costs order acts as a disincentive to pursuing sexual harassment matters in the federal jurisdiction.
Given the already low rates of reporting of sexual harassment, we agree that it’s important to ensure that barriers or disincentives to action are removed.
However, we also note the discussion in the consultation paper as it relates to the likelihood of vexatious or unmeritorious complaints proceeding to court. While these situations may be uncommon, vexatious applicants can create an unfair burden on the respondent. This can be particularly difficult for smaller businesses and non-profit organisations, which may not have the same resources as larger organisations to defend themselves against such claims.
DCA is therefore of the view is that cost neutrality with discretion model (‘soft cost neutrality’) is the most appropriate because it allows for flexibility in determining costs associated with the dispute resolution process and believe that this model strikes the most suitable balance.