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AUSTRALIA: Virgin Blue discrimination case flies again

The Age
June 8th, 2006

Virgin Blue has launched an appeal against a ruling that it discriminated against eight former Ansett flight attendants because they were not young and attractive enough.

The flight attendants, who were aged between 35 and 55 at the time, applied for jobs with Virgin Blue following the collapse of Ansett, but failed to get past the first round of interviews.

Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal member Douglas Savage last year found the Virgin Blue assessors were unconsciously and unintentionally discriminating on the basis of age.

Mr Savage also found Virgin Blue failed to offer a realistic explanation for why no one over 36 was employed as cabin crew during the airline's recruitment drive from September 2001 to September 2002.

Virgin Blue's barrister Glenn Martin, QC, today challenged the tribunal decision in the Queensland Court of Appeal in Brisbane.

He said Virgin Blue wanted the court to quash the ruling and award costs against the eight women or send the case back to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal for another hearing.

He argued Virgin Blue was not given enough warning the case was being fought on the basis that the discrimination was unintentional and unconscious.

Mr Martin also said the tribunal's finding that the discrimination was unintentional was not supported by the relevant legislation on the matter.

"The (Anti-Discrimination) Act does not go as far as to say a finding can be made of unintentional discrimination which is what the tribunal found," Mr Martin said.

He also challenged the statistical analysis by the tribunal saying it assumed that apart from age, all applicants were the same which made no allowance for individual capacity or talents.

Justice Martin Moynihan reserved his decision.

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