A Queensland-based medical company has been forced to pay $25,000 compensation to an employee after it unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of an impairment.
Employer Advisors said businesses have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments for workers with impairments or disabilities, otherwise they could face similar claims.
In this case, the employee had worked for the company for 10 years, first as a pathology collector and then as an area manager, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and took six months off for treatment.
As a result of surgery, the woman developed stroke-like symptoms, and was left with weakness in her left hand and arm.
She returned to work doing administration duties, including payroll and auditing, but made a number of mistakes.
Despite asking for extra training, she was demoted, having her pay cut by $10 and hour, and eventually lost her position as area manager.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Employer Advisors, said it was clear she was being’ managed’ out of the business.
“Here she was, desperate to do a good job, and asking for extra training and help, and they flatly refused,” he said.
“She felt like she was being managed out, and she was right.”
The company sent the woman 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.
It was here that the company made a big mistake, according to Mr Heffernan.
“They told her that taking blood samples was an inherent requirement of the job, and moved to sack her, but the truth was, it was never an inherent part of the job, and if that task was needed, it would have been easy to arrange for another person to do it,” he said.
The woman asked if there was any other role she could perform in the business, and she was given an admin job for just two days a week.
In addition, the woman was subjected to cruel comments and gossip from her colleagues, who would describe her as “deranged” and “not like she used to be”.
Discrimination Claims took the case to the Anti-Discrimination of Queensland, arguing the worker was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of impairment.
At conciliation, the employer agreed to settle the matter for $25,000, if the woman agreed to leave the company.
Mr Heffernan said employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with impairments or disabilities.
“This was not a difficult situation for the employer to manage, all they had to do was make some minor adjustments in the workplace to accommodate her,” he 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.”
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