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Chapel Bar & Bistro in Ponsonby posted an online ad saying: "We need female bar & floor staff at Chapel ... drop us an email if you or a friend needs a job."
Owner Luke Dallow said the ad was to be taken "tongue-in-cheek", but was worded that way because the central Auckland business was seeking gender balance.
The Human Rights Commission said both Masala and Chapel could be in breach of the Human Rights Act.
"Should the commission receive a complaint, it will be dealt with in the usual manner," a spokeswoman said.
Last year, the commission had 1488 inquiries and complaints about unlawful discrimination.
"The commission does not investigate complaints or prosecute. Its complaints process is one of voluntary, confidential mediation ... It is for the Human Rights Review Tribunal to determine whether any complaint is unlawful," the spokeswoman said.
The tribunal can award compensatory damages of up to $200,000.
Mr Dallow, who is also behind the Dedwood Brewing Company with its headquarters at Tin Soldier restaurant just across the street from Chapel, said he had 54 employees and 65 per cent were male.
"We're not being sexist or anything in posting that ad, I'm running a business and it's just about wanting to get the mix right," said Mr Dallow, who has been operating hospitality businesses for 22 years.
But employment lawyer Claire English said the Chapel ad seemed "a very clear breach" of the act.
"There's been a lot of publicity about this, and I'm surprised that people wouldn't know and be aware."
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said yesterday that investigations into the Masala chain of restaurants were still before the Employment Relations Authority.
The Human Rights Act covers all grounds of illegal discrimination, and outlines 13 grounds on which it is prohibited for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a job applicant.
These include gender, marital status, religious belief, colour, race and ethnic or national origins.
There may be some exceptions where an employer can specify gender preferences - for example, a women-only gym.
- Lincoln Tan of the NZ Herald