Discrimination Claims has helped a Brisbane office worker win a $20,000 settlement from his employer, after he was directed to see a psychiatrist for an independent medical examination, which resulted in childhood trauma being exposed.
*Michael suffers from bipolar, and earlier this year, was increasingly taking days off work, citing his mental health.
Although he had been given a clearance from his own psychiatrist that he was fit for work, Michael’s boss told him to see another clinician for an independent assessment.
As part of the process, he was directed to sign a consent form agreeing that the results of the consultation would be given to his employer.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at employee advocacy firm Discrimination Claims, said Michael’s alarm bells should have been ringing.
“The fact that he was ‘directed’ to sign a consent form is outrageous – I don’t want to break anyone’s rainbow, but it’s not consent if it’s directed,” he said.
“An employer has certain rights to do independent medical examinations, but it’s not an absolute right, and they can only do them in certain circumstances.”
Michael went ahead with the appointment, but during the consultation, the psychiatrist asked him to share details of his childhood trauma, including past sexual abuse.
Mr Heffernan said as a result of the consultation, Michael fell into a dark depression, worried that if the highly personal information was shared with his employer, it would damage his reputation, and even jeopardise his job.
“The reason that an employer needs a medical certificate is to ensure you are fit for your job, it is not the case that they can go on a mental health fishing expedition to dredge up your deepest darkest secrets,” he said.
Discrimination Claims immediately engaged their colleagues at Worker Law, who wrote to the doctor threatening an injunction to stop him from providing the report to Michael’s employer, and also threatening to sue him for medical negligence if he did so.
In addition, Worker Law contacted the employer and said they were not to proceed with accessing the report.
In the end, the results of the consultation were kept confidential, and Michael left the job with a $20,000 payout from his employer.
Mr Heffernan warns that independent medical examinations can sometimes be used by employers to try and get rid of staff, and said anyone who has been told to attend such consultations should first seek expert advice.
“If you get directed to attend an independent medical examination, that direction may not be lawful, and secondly, the questions sought should be limited, and it should certainly not be an open inquiry prying into every aspect of your personal life, especially if it isn’t relevant to your job.”
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of a medical condition, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice about your circumstances.