Discrimination Claims has won a new mother $25,000 compensation after her employer dismissed her because she refused to return to work full-time.
During a three day trial in the Industrial Relations Commission, the Queensland-based employment agency where the woman worked admitted that it had discriminated against her on the basis of her parental status and family responsibilities, by not offering her flexible working arrangements.
*Jane started working for the agency in December 2015 as an employment consultant, and also as a coordinator of the NDIS rollout in the local area.
Already the primary carer for her 10 year-old step-daughter, Jane took six months maternity leave to have a baby boy, before returning to work one day a week.
The company soon asked her to increase her hours, and after managing to juggle child care and babysitting arrangements, and weaning her young son off breastfeeding, Jane agreed to work three days a week.
But even before she was able to start her new roster, Jane’s boss called and told her he needed her to return to work full-time.
When she told him that she couldn’t do it, the company hired another worker, who was allowed flexible hours to drop off and pick up her children from school.
After enquiring about the new staff member, Jane was accused of bullying behaviour, and received a written warning, which detailed issues with her performance, even though her performance had never been raised by management previously.
Jane felt she was left with no other option but to resign.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said Jane had been effectively fired.
“It’s called constructive dismissal, where an employer changes the working conditions of an employee, with the hope that they will resign, and that’s exactly what happened in this instance,” he said.
The case went to the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland, and then to a full three-day hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission, but before a judgement was handed down, the job agency admitted to discrimination, and agreed to pay Jane $25,000 for hurt and humiliation.
Mr Heffernan said the case is an important lesson for employers and employees to not punish someone because of their parental status or family responsibilities.
“It’s the same as if you discriminate against someone, or treat them less favourably, because of their sexuality, or because of the colour of their skin,” he said.
“New mums need all the help they can get to get back to work, and employers need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them, and if that means flexible hours, or a different roster, then they must do it,” he said.
“When employers put up roadblocks to women returning to work, they deserve to feel the full force of the law.”
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