A labour hire company which asks female job applicants and workers about menstrual problems and whether they are pregnant is being taken to the Equal Opportunity Commission for alleged discrimination.
The Maritime Union of Australia claims the two questions in the Skilled Group's medical exam, for jobs including offshore chef, caterer and pilot, breach gender and disability discrimination laws.
The union claimed several other questions were intrusive and offensive, including whether workers had seen a psychologist or had ever suffered depression, anxiety, haemorrhoids, varicose veins or tinea.
It said the exam had several irrelevant lifestyle questions, such as whether workers drank alcohol, exercised less than two hours a week and whether they had been to a dentist recently.
MUA organiser Matthew Elliott accused Skilled of hiding behind confidential medical exams to reject workers for illegitimate reasons.
The union's complaint to the commission focuses on a question about whether the applicant normally requires time off work or medical treatment during their monthly menstrual cycle. It wants a written apology to female workers.
"It has no relevance to their ability to do their job whatsoever and is discrimination as far as we're concerned," Mr Elliott said.
Employment consultant Darren Nelson said some of the questions could genuinely help an employer meet its duty of care to offshore workers, but there was a danger it could be used to wrongly discriminate against workers and to invade their privacy.
"The document in isolation is scary - it's very Big Brother," he said.
A Skilled spokeswoman said the questionnaire, used by Offshore Marine Services, was based on its obligations under guidelines set by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
She said medical assessors used their judgment to determine which answers warranted further examination by an AMSA-approved doctor.
"If the union has an issue, they should take it up with the Government, not with us," the spokeswoman said.
Workplace relations lawyer Mark Hemery said there was a strong case many of the questions were unlawful because they went beyond the issues raised in the AMSA guidelines.He said there were clear laws against asking job applicants about pregnancy and AMSA's guidelines related only to the final trimester.