Discrimination Claims has helped a medical worker who developed a brain tumour win $25,000 compensation after she was subjected to discrimination for having an impairment.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said the employer initially demoted the woman, and then tried to sack her, as a result of the physical impairment she suffered after surgery.
“This poor lady had been a loyal worker for this company for more than a decade, and through no fault of her own, she got sick, and when she tried to return to work and get on with things, they made her life hell,” he said.
*Jane had worked for the Brisbane-based company since 2005, initially as a pathology collector, and then an area manager, until she was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the end of 2015.
Following surgery, Jane was left with stroke-like symptoms that left her with weakness in her left hand and arm, and was forced to spend a further two months in hospital.
By April the following year, the company wanted her back at work, even though she hadn’t been medically cleared to do so.
Jane returned in a limited capacity doing administration duties, including payroll and auditing, but because of her condition, she made a number of mistakes.
Her request for additional training was refused and she was eventually demoted, having her pay cut by $10 an hour, and was then removed from the area manager role.
“Here she was, desperate to do a good job, and asking for extra training and help, and they flatly refused,” Mr Heffernan said. “She felt like they were trying to manage her out of the business.”
To make matters worse, Jane said she was the target of cruel gossip with co-workers describing her as “deranged” and “not like she used to be”.
In late 2017, Jane was sent for an independent medical examination, which determined that she was fit for work, with the exception of not being able to take blood samples – a task she only had to do in emergencies.
The company saw their chance, and made moves to sack Jane by telling her that taking blood samples was an inherent part of the job – but after Jane asked if there was another role for her, she was given a new job that involved just two days of work a week.
“Taking blood samples was definitely not an inherent requirement of the job as they argued, it would have been easy for this company to make other arrangements to have another worker do that task if it was required,” Mr Heffernan said.
Discrimination Claims lodged a complaint in the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland, claiming Jane was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of impairment.
During conciliation, the employer agreed to pay Jane $25,000 compensation, and in return she agreed to leave the company.
“This was not a difficult situation for this employer to manage, all they had to do was make some minor adjustments in the workplace to accommodate her,” Mr Heffernan said.
“We are talking about a company that generates more than a billion dollars in revenue a year, so it’s not as though they couldn’t afford it, or would have faced unjust hardship in making those adjustments.
“Employers need to be aware that they are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate workers with impairments or disabilities, otherwise they can face claims of discrimination.”
If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of impairment or disability, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call our friendly staff at Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice.
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