The complainant has multiple sclerosis and is employed full-time as a store person. He complained that his employer failed to properly accommodate his disability when it refused to implement a work roster that was prescribed by his occupational therapist.
The man said that the failure to properly accommodate his disability resulted in a deterioration in his condition which required hospitalisation. He also claimed that the rostering arrangements indirectly discriminated against him because they precluded him from being able accept any overtime.
The employer said that it did make the appropriate changes to the rostering arrangements after a workplace assessment. The complaint was resolved at conciliation when the employer agreed to reinstate the leave the complainant took during a relapse of his condition.
The complainant was a nurse at a residential care facility. She had epilepsy and suffered from Grand Mal seizures when she was too tired or out of her routine. She supplied medical certificates for time she had off, and then a letter from her doctor to say that she was unable to do night duty because she had needed a regular sleep routine.
The employer refused to accept the letter on the basis that it would create a precedent, and gave it back to her. She was told that if she could not work all the shifts she would have to resign and become a casual. She did so, believing it to be her only option. She then contacted her employer each week for casual work, but was told that they had no shifts for her.
At conciliation, the employer said that it had failed to follow its own policies after the receipt of the complainant’s medical certificates and the letter from the doctor. It agreed that it was reasonable for the complainant to feel upset about what had happened. The employer offered to allow the complainant to return to work part-time with appropriate support. The complainant decided that she would prefer an apology and a financial settlement, and this was agreed.
The complainant was a contractor with a manufacturing firm. He was offered an apprenticeship, and was sent for a medical. This determined that he could not perform the inherent requirements of the position, even though he had been doing a similar position for two years. The apprenticeship had been offered to him because his performance had been so good.
The respondent withdrew the offer of the apprenticeship and sacked the complainant as a contractor. The complainant had not been told that he might jeopardise his current position by having the medical assessment.
He provided two other medical assessments that said that he was fit for both his current position and the apprenticeship, but the respondent did not change its decision. The complainant was subsequently employed by another firm to do exactly the same job he had done for the respondent, but he was unable to secure an apprenticeship.
At conciliation, the respondent said that the decision not to offer the apprenticeship and to withdraw the other employment was made on a risk management basis. It said that it had considered the other medical assessments, but had decided not to accept them. The parties agreed to a financial settlement and a statement of service.
A woman employed as a casual bar attendant was dismissed after being absent from work for several weeks due to vertigo. She said she was told that her condition rendered her a liability.
Although she had provided medical certificates covering her absence, the employer said she had been advised on numerous occasions that she would need to provide a medical certificate specifically clearing her for a resumption of duties. However this was not provided until after her complaint had been lodged with the Board.
The employer said that she remained an employee and that she had misconstrued the conversation.
The woman maintained that she could no longer work for the respondent. The matter was resolved when the woman accepted $2,000 in settlement.
A fitter-machinist complained that he was made redundant after returning to work following heart surgery. The employer said this was not related to the heart surgery but because the global financial crisis had affected orders in the process operated by the complainant. This process involved manual machining of small and specialist orders.
The employer said that the complainant was one of the employees selected for redundancy because his skills did not include CNC machining. The complainant agreed that he did not have skills in this area, and accepted a payment of $3,500 in settlement of his complaint.
The complainant has post-polio syndrome and walks with a limp. She attended training at work which was conducted by an external provider. She alleged that the trainer humiliated and embarrassed her in front of other participants by questioning her about what was wrong with her leg and mimicking the way she walked.
She said the conduct left her feeling numb and speechless. The complainant was resolved when she accepted a payment of $6,000 in settlement.
The employer of a heavy vehicle driver had him medically assessed after he was involved in a minor accident, and then demoted him to a non-driving position. The driver said that the medical assessment had not revealed any relevant medical condition, and the accident had occurred because he had a microsleep due to working long hours. He said he had incorrectly used the words ‘blacked out’ when describing the accident to his employer as English was his second language.
The employer said that this was the second occasion on which the complainant appeared to briefly lose consciousness without explanation, and it had a duty of care to the driver, its other employees and the public. The employer said that the man had not lost any wages or suffered any other detriment, but he said he had lost the opportunity to work overtime which was more frequently available to drivers.
The employer's operations were due to be taken over by a new company, and the complainant and all other employees were made redundant and were in the process of applying for jobs with the new employer when the complaint was lodged. The matter was resolved when the respondent agreed to pay the complainant’s outstanding medical bills and to calculate all the complainant’s redundancy payments at the rate of driver.
The complainant has been profoundly deaf from birth and his preferred method of communication is Auslan. He worked for the respondent as a general labourer, and alleged that he had not been provided with many opportunities for advancement or considered for promotion to leading hand because he was deaf.
The man said the employer relied too much on informal methods to communicate important workplace issues to him and had effectively ignored him at a meeting where a co-worker with less experience and skill was appointed as acting leading hand. The respondent said that the complainant’s disability did not have a bearing on the decision to promote the other worker. They said that the position was temporary and that the complainant had been provided with a similar promotion previously.
The matter was resolved when the employer agreed to a number of undertakings including: provision of deafness awareness training to its employees; the provision of Auslan interpreters at important meetings and training; approval of professional development for the complainant to attend a course for supervisors; an undertaking to provide the complainant and his co-workers with the use of various visual aids, including a laptop PC to assist with communication; and, provision of one-on-one training for the complainant, with the assistance of an Auslan interpreter, to explain the employer’s system of grading and classification of its employees and the available career paths.
A woman applied for the position of trainee recruiter with a recruitment agency. She was not offered the position despite attending a number of interviews and being given the impression that she was successful. She said that when she asked why, she was told that one of her referees had mentioned a stress-related illness.
The agency denied that they’d said this, but claimed that the woman didn’t have enough sales experience and appeared to have a low stress tolerance. They said they were unaware that the woman had any stress-related illness and denied that her referee had disclosed this. The agency said that their tests had indicated the woman’s low stress tolerance and that the position was essentially a high-pressure sales position. The matter was resolved when the woman accepted a payment equivalent to the expenses she incurred in applying for the position.
A man was employed under the Electronic and Communications Contracting State Award. The exact position he held was in dispute. He had sustained a number of electric shocks during his employment and said that the last electrocution had caused him to suffer from depression and acute anxiety.
The employer had initially provided him with alternative duties, but he was later placed on worker’s compensation as the employer claimed that there were no longer any suitable duties available for him. Ultimately he was terminated on the grounds that he could no longer perform the work he was employed to do. The man claimed that he could have returned to his position in the future and the employer had not made any genuine attempts to rehabilitate him.
The employer said that it had complied with the requirements under Workcover legislation. However, they agreed that they had not investigated whether any facilities could have been provided to the man to help him perform his job. The man accepted a payment of $4,750 in settlement.
A young man who was employed in a small manufacturing workshop alleged that he was fired four weeks after he started because his employer discovered that he has bipolar disorder. He agreed that the employer told him that he was being terminated because he could not be relied on to turn up for work. However, he said he thought his disability was the real reason for the termination.
The parties agreed that the man had told the employer about his condition when he began work. They also agreed that during the month he was absent six times at short notice. These absences were for a variety of reasons to do with the man’s car (he lived 70 km from the workplace). The complaint was resolved in conciliation when the man accepted the employer’s explanation for the reason for his termination.
A woman of very short stature applied to work at a food production company in her region. She had the relevant qualifications but alleged that she was told she wouldn’t be given a job as she was too short and would “fall through the boards” on the shop floor. She asked around and discovered that it was very unlikely that the boards would be a problem.
At a conciliation, the company agreed to give her a three-month trial. She got through this and continued to work there, although there were some ongoing problems.
A man applied for employment with a government agency. After undergoing medical checks he was told he was unsuitable for the position because he was colour blind. With assistance from the Board, the agency agreed to carry out an on-the-job test of the man’s ability to perform the work required. The man passed this test and was accepted as eligible for employment.
A woman was employed as an assistant manager at a store. She was diagnosed with cancer and was away from work while receiving treatment. She alleged that on her return to work, her manager was unsupportive and unsympathetic to her condition and created a hostile working environment. This included rostering her to work in a different store, reprimanding her because she was unable to predict the days she would need to visit the hospital for chemotherapy, and denigrating her work performance to management.
In conciliation, the company provided the woman with an apology, made a commitment to undertake training for managers and provide mediation in order to restore a professional working relationship.
The complainant had worked as a storeman for a major chain store for over 30 years. He had badly injured his shoulder while on holidays, and requested light duties upon his return. He alleged that the company told him he could only come back when he was fully fit, and as a result he had used up all his leave.
The company said that they had discussed with the man what work he could do and the only work they thought suitable was as a cashier, but he had rejected this. The man later explained that he was very unsure about handling money and was not confident that he would be able to do the job and might even be sacked.By the time of the conciliation conference, the man was back at work on other light duties. At conciliation, the company accepted that there had been some problems with the man’s medical certificates and their handling of them, particularly as the man’s condition improved and the range of work he could do increased.
The complaint was resolved when the company agreed to pay the man $2,000 compensation, provide a letter of regret, and return him to his previous job as soon as he was fit to do so. The store also agreed to ensure that the man’s supervisor was sympathetic to his situation.
A man had a mental illness and had worked for a large company for a number of years. When he had an episode of illness, he asked his employer for leave without pay, which was granted to him. But when he requested another period of leave, this was refused. When he was unable to come back to work, the company declared that he’d abandoned his employment and he was dismissed.When the man complained to the Board, the employer said that they had a clear policy to terminate any staff who had taken more than a certain amount of leave. The man also alleged that when he was fit to work again he approached the company to ask if he could have his job back, and was told that there were no positions at that time, and it would be too difficult to re-train him. He alleged that this was because of his illness, although the company denied this.
The matter was settled when the employer apologised to the man, changed its policy on leave without pay, and paid him a considerable sum of financial compensation. The company also made an offer of reinstatement, which the man declined.
A man alleged that he was subjected to ongoing harassment and humiliation by his immediate supervisor because of his stutter. At conciliation, the employer agreed to pay the man $13,000 for pain and suffering, provide him with a statement of employment, an apology and an undertaking to train all staff.
A woman who was employed as a security guard sustained physical and psychological injuries at work. She alleged that after these injuries she was subjected to harassment and discrimination by her co-workers and management. This included attempts to undermine her rehabilitation plan, assigning her to perform inappropriate tasks, and failing to provide her with the required services and facilities to do her job.At conciliation, she accepted a statement of regret and a $6,250 payment from the employer. They also agreed that the employer would review their policies and procedures relating to employees who had work-related incidents.
The woman also alleged that she was discriminated against by officers of her union. This included lack of assistance and support with her return to work program, and being verbally abused on several occasions by union delegates because she could not carry out certain duties due to her injuries. In settlement of this complaint, the woman accepted a $5,000 ex-gratia payment, a written apology, a review of the union’s grievance procedure, and publication in the union’s newspaper of an article on responsibilities of delegates regarding complaints of discrimination.
A man applied for employment as a driver, undergoing a medical assessment as part of the recruitment process. After considering the medical report, the employer advised the man that they could not employ him because they thought he was too much of a safety risk.
The man said that he’d undergone spinal surgery 30 years ago, and this did not affect his ability as a driver. He advised that he had previous experience and had held various classes of licences. Since applying for employment with the employer, the man had obtained employment with another company as a driver. The complaint was resolved when the man accepted a payment of $4,250 in settlement.
A woman who worked as a lab technician had rheumatoid arthritis and needed to take regular breaks to take medication. She complained that changes to the company's services meant she was rostered at short notice and it was more difficult to manage her condition. At conciliation, the complainant and respondent agreed on a new rostering arrangement that would suit her.
A woman with multiple sclerosis applied for a job as a driver, and was interviewed and offered the position. She stated her condition on the application form and explained that it did not affect her driving. She was then asked to provide a medical certificate, but before she did this the employment offer was withdrawn. The employer agreed to pay her $3000 to settle the complaint.
The complainant was a man who had post traumatic stress disorder following service in the Australian Defence Force. He has an assistance dog which he said helped to alleviate the effects of the disability, particularly with managing anxiety.
He made a complaint of disability discrimination after he tried to take the dog into a hotel and was stopped by security guards. Although he explained that the dog was not a pet but a trained assistance animal, and wore a jacket indicating this, he was not allowed to enter with the dog. His friends were also barred from entering because they were supporting him.
When the Board contacted the hotel, they were positive about addressing the complaint. Since the complaint had been lodged they had dismissed the existing security guards and hired new ones. They agreed to ensure that all staff and contractors working at the hotel would receive training on discrimination law, with particular focus on assistance animals.
The hotel also agreed to make a financial contribution of $5,500 to two charities that support the training of assistance animals. In addition, they held a fundraising day to support these charities and invited the complainant to speak about the charities’ work.
An older woman lodged a complaint of disability discrimination against the owners’ corporation of her retirement village. She was very concerned that the use of mobility scooters in the complex was unsafe and she was at risk of injury as she was frail and could not move quickly out of the way.
The problems included driving the scooters too fast, not taking enough care when coming out of the lifts, and parking without due attention to the safe passage of other residents. Also she was concerned that the scooters did not have third party insurance and if someone was injured there would be no funds to pay for their treatment.
The complainant had tried to raise the issue with the executive committee at the village but had not received a satisfactory response. Initially when she contacted the Board she wanted all scooters banned from the complex, but she accepted that this was unrealistic in view of the age of the residents.
The Board held a conciliation conference at which it was agreed that the issue of insurance was important and would be raised at the next executive committee meeting. It was also accepted that protocols should be introduced to encourage residents to use scooters safely, for example reminders in the welcome brochure and the monthly magazine to drive at walking pace and be careful where the scooter is parked.
A woman lodged a complaint of disability discrimination against her insurance company after she was forced to leave a cruise ship with her adult son, who had a physical disability.
The woman took her son on the Mediterranean cruise after first taking him on a shorter cruise to make sure that he could manage. The two flew straight from Australia and then travelled to the embarkation port, so they were both very tired by the time they boarded the ship.
Once they were on board, there were lengthy delays during which they had to stand on the deck. The man began to feel faint and needed to sit down, but he was told that he had to stand or sit down on the deck. As he wasn’t able to get down to sit on the ground, he walked over to a step and sat there.
The woman alleged that the staff then shouted at the man and tried to haul him to his feet. He became distressed, and an altercation ensued which resulted in him being ordered off the ship. As the cruise had been pre-paid, they didn’t have sufficient money to cover the additional accommodation costs incurred after leaving the ship, and they were stuck in the port for some time waiting for more money from Australia.
When the woman made a claim on her travel insurance for the additional expense the insurance company refused to pay. They claimed that it was the complainants’ fault that they were ejected from the ship, and they had not disclosed the man’s disability when purchasing the insurance. The woman said that the problem had not arisen from the disability but from jet-lag and the poor arrangements on the ship.
At conciliation, the company recognised that the initial insurance claim may have been misunderstood. It was agreed that complaint would be settled by financial compensation.
An elderly woman lodged a complaint against a local council because she could not access their new swimming pool complex using her mobility scooter. She couldn't use the front entrance and when she came in using the side entrance, the staff would comment on her being in the way and tell her she shouldn’t have her scooter in there. She therefore felt discouraged from using the pool.
The Board wrote to the council asking about their policies and training. The council replied that they were not discouraging the woman, and they had just built the pool to be accessible and were very keen for residents to use it, especially people with mobility problems.
The council’s general manager apologised if the woman felt excluded and emphasised that she was very welcome. They explained that the council had a policy on disability access to its services, and council staff had recently undergone disability awareness training.
The woman was happy with this response as she considered it was meaningful and acknowledged her concerns. She advised that she considered the complaint resolved as she could now access the pool complex without feeling out of place or stared at.
The complainant has a stoma and uses a colostomy bag. The stoma is positioned in an area of his abdomen, which prevents him from bending. When filling his car with fuel at a self-service fuel station he used a device to lock in the trigger of a petrol bowser nozzle, which alleviated the need to bend or stoop while re-fuelling. When the petrol station owner realised the man was using the device he told him he had to stop because it was a dangerous and contrary to the requirements of safely handling fuel.
At conciliation, the complainant agreed to a procedure proposed by the petrol station, whereby he would provide notice that he was coming in to re-fuel and the station would organise an attendant to assist him.
A young man with an intellectual disability was ejected from a store by a security guard. He said he was told that he had been harassing the staff and there had been complaints about him. A relative who wrote the complaint on his behalf said that when she contacted the store she received conflicting accounts of what had happened, none of which were very convincing. She said that her relative was a very quiet person who was now reluctant to go into a store on his own.
The store’s management said that the man had been asked to leave the store because he was swearing at a security guard. They said the store had an EEO and harassment policy and did not tolerate discrimination towards customers. The complaint was resolved when the store apologised to the complainant and said he was welcome in the store. They also agreed to send the staff involved in the complaint to training about discrimination.
A woman who uses a wheelchair complained that when she rang to book a taxi, she was advised that people who require wheelchair-accessible cabs must make advance bookings. The complaint was resolved by an apology from the manager and the distribution of a new policy to all booking operators.
A man suffered from severe pain when he had to stand for any length of time. He lodged a complaint against his local bank because he had to stand in a queue to receive services from the teller. The complaint was resolved when a procedure was set in place where the man now goes to the information desk, which then holds a place for him in the teller’s queue so that he doesn’t have to stand.
A woman with multiple disabilities alleged that a pharmacist told her to leave his pharmacy because she needed assistance reading the product labels and that he thought she was wasting his staff’s time.
At conciliation, the pharmacist denied evicting the woman from the pharmacy because of her disability. He said that the woman would regularly loiter around the beauty products in the pharmacy for up to an hour without buying anything. He said that his staff were suspicious of the woman’s behaviour and were concerned for the security of the stock. He said that on the day in question the woman was asked several times if she needed assistance, which she declined.
It was agreed that on the day the woman walked out of the pharmacy with products that she had not paid for after the pharmacist refused to sell them to her. The parties agreed to settle the matter when the woman accepted an ex-gratia payment of $1,000 and agreed not to return to the pharmacy.
A man with a psychiatric disability attended a service that provided activities and meals. An incident occurred between the man and the manager of the centre in which the man was allegedly abusive, and he was then banned from the centre except for meals. He said that the reason his manner may have changed during the incident was because he was hungry and this affected his mental state because of his disability. The complaint was resolved after the Board contacted the service and they agreed to allow the man to return for a trial period.
A woman who used a motorised wheelchair booked to see a theatrical performance with her carer. She alleged that the theatre company made inadequate arrangements to accommodate patrons in wheelchairs, and as a result she could not enter the theatre until after the first act. She said that the space available for wheelchairs in the theatre was not adequate and parts of the theatre were not wheelchair accessible.
The matter was resolved when the theatre company and the lessee of the building agreed to: train staff in disability awareness; review procedures; review and upgrade their signage; review disabled parking facilities; update their website for information on disabled access; develop and prioritise strategies to improve disabled access; and engage a consultant to assess these strategies in order to remove all barriers to disabled access.
A young man with autism was a frequent customer of a fast food outlet. He alleged that on one occasion after being provided with a receipt, he noticed that the words ‘freak-boy’ had been written as the customer identification. He complained to the Board, saying that this incident had had a significant affect on his self-confidence and that it had also been a setback to the development of his social skills. The matter was resolved when the man accepted a personal apology and $4,000 to settle the matter.
A couple both have disabilities that impair their mobility - one uses a wheelchair and the other uses callipers. They are both unable to climb stairs and require disabled access to entertainment venues. When trying to pre-book tickets to an entertainment event, they were advised by the third-party booking agency that disabled seating could not be pre-booked because it is only made available by the various venues on the general release date of the tickets.
The couple accepted this explanation but said that the agency’s web site which gave misleading information. The couple accepted the ticketing agency’s offer of free tickets to a show of their choice, and an undertaking to correct the misleading information on its web site.
A man suffered from a chronic illness and was unable to obtain effective medical treatment in Australia. He needed to stay in a hospital in another country for about 5-6 months. He said that his housing provider refused his request for leave of absence from his accommodation, and was applying its policy on leave of absence in a too restrictive and discriminatory fashion. At conciliation, the housing provider agreed to grant leave to the man without any further demands for independent medical assessments.
The Board received two complaints of disability discrimination against the same education provider, both from people who were hearing impaired. In the first case, the institution provided an interpreter for the student but this interpreter only signed in English and the person preferred to use Auslan. The student dropped out of the course. This complaint was resolved at the Board when the education provider agreed to acknowledge Auslan as the primary language of adult deaf people, to provide an Auslan interpreter where possible for exams and assessments, and to provide other services as required.
In the second case, the student said he was told by a staff member that he was taking on too big a load when he wanted to undertake a full-time course plus one additional subject from another course. He said he thought it was his right to make this judgment and the staff member was putting him down. The complaint was resolved when the institution agreed to provide interpreters throughout the student’s course, and to let all students know about a local advocacy service which could negotiate with the institution’s disability consultant to quickly resolve problems.
A boy’s parents lodged a complaint on behalf of their son, who had a number of psychological, emotional and organic disabilities. They alleged that the education provider refused to take their son’s disabilities seriously enough and did not support him in his learning environment based on his doctor’s recommendations. They also alleged that the education provider failed to implement an individual educational plan that was tailored to their son’s needs. The complaint was resolved when both sides committed to a written agreement that specified the actions to be taken by each party in order to meet the child’s educational needs.
A woman alleged that she was discriminated against because of her psychiatric disability when the disability support unit of her tertiary institution did not provide her with an adequate level of service to enable her to continue her studies. The tertiary institution said that they had tried to implement an appropriate level of support, but miscommunication between the parties had meant that consultation was delayed and the woman discontinued the course before this was finalised. The matter was resolved when the institution agreed to review their procedures for providing disability support, and provide the woman with a statement of regret and an ex-gratia payment of $2,000.
Two women who both had a mobility disability were refused the lease of one floor of a warehouse, on the grounds that there was only a male toilet on that floor. Upon investigation, it became clear that they could use the ground floor toilet, as it had one entrance with a lock. After discussions, the agent offered the women the lease.
A man who used a wheelchair could access the downstairs bar of his local club but not the restaurant, which was upstairs. He lived in a rural area and the club was one of the only social facilities available to him.
He asked the club to provide access to the upstairs area. The management investigated the option of a stair lift, but the stairs were not wide enough to do this and still be safe for other people using the stairs. The manager said that it was too expensive to install a separate lift, and the man’s mother made a complaint to the Board on his behalf.
A new manager then arrived at the club and when the Board contacted him he was more receptive to the idea of installing a lift. This would provide benefits for other patrons and staff as well as the complainant, including people using mobility devices, people with prams and people moving large or heavy items.
After investigating the expense and the engineering aspects, the club submitted a development application and this was eventually approved. The complaint was resolved when it was agreed that the lift would be fully operational by a certain date.
A woman was a below-the-knee amputee and had a prosthesis. She said that a registered club refused to provide her with further alcoholic drinks because a staff member assumed she was drunk, as she seemed to be unsteady on her feet. She said that when she complained to the club’s management and told them that she only had one leg, another staff member laughed at her. The matter was resolved when the club gave a written undertaking to conduct staff training on discrimination issues.