Disability discrimination complaint costs Big Four accounting firm big bucks

A chartered accountant has been awarded more than $60,000 after the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that her former employer, Deloitte Touche Tomatsu, had discriminated against her on the grounds of her disability.

In August 2012, the Applicant advised her employer she had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. The medical evidence provided by the Applicant stated that the particular type of tuberculosis was not contagious and did not pose a risk to others when treated properly. Although indicating that she may require reduced duties and possibly time off for subsequent medical reviews, the Applicant’s doctor advised she had no objections to the Applicant returning to work when she feels able.

Despite the advice from her doctor, the Applicant alleged that her former employer pressured her to take a period of unpaid leave, was more intensively performance-managed due to her disability and that she was subsequently pressured to resign.

The Tribunal used a comparator to determine whether the Applicant had been treated less favourably than her employer would have treated someone in similar circumstances who did not have that disability. While her employer argued that the Applicant was outwardly unhappy and her performance had deteriorated, the tribunal held that the treatment is discriminatory because her disability was a factor in her former employer’s actions.

The Applicant was awarded $14,307 as compensation for the 6 week period of unpaid leave she was pressured to take, $10,000 for non-economic loss and the difference between her usual salary and the workers compensation payments that she had received, approximately $36,000.

 Rise of disability discrimination complaints:

This decision is just the latest in a long list of high profile disability discrimination complaints in Australia

A PHD candidate with dyslexia has reportedly lodged a complaint against the University of Sydney alleging that it has failed to make reasonable adjustments by not providing support services to prospective students. Despite finding a supervisor willing to supervise his PHD at the University, he was reportedly unable to gain access to a scribe to complete his proposal to enroll unless he was already enrolled.

In another case, high profile law firm Maurice Blackburn has been accused of discriminating against a blind lawyer in Queensland. The Applicant alleged that her duties were changed, effectively amounting to a demotion, after she was deemed an unacceptable risk to the business. The Applicant also claimed she was asked to leave the Christmas party before dessert was served because her carer had left, even though another employee arranged to support her. Maurice Blackburn disputes the allegations.

What does this mean for your business?

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 (D.D.A.) protects all Australian employees against discrimination based on disability. The Act comes into play when employees with a disability are treated unfairly compared to those without a disability. Employers need to be wary of accommodating their disabled employees, ensuring they are treated in equal fairness to those without a disability. Or be prepared to take on the costs!

For more information on the recommendations and what this means for you, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.