Employment Law – Dismissal of Injured Worker Not Discriminatory

Employment Law – Background

In Hilditch v AHG Services (NSW) Trading As Lansvale Holden [2017], the Federal Court rejected a fitter’s claim that his previous employer had breached disability discrimination legislation when they fired him without considering reasonable adjustments to accommodate his workplace injury.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • In 2009 a fitter at AHG Services injured a finger on his left hand
  • After surgery, he gradually returned to his pre-injury duties
  • In 2012 he was dismissed after providing medical certificates which confirmed he couldn’t perform his duties adequately and was only fit for office work
  • The worker sought damages for lost income and non-economic loss. He argued that AGHS had breached the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) by dismissing him without contemplating reasonable adjustments or reassigning him to another role

Employment Law – Decision

The Federal Court found:

  • Prior to January 2011, there was no reason for AHGS to consider making reasonable adjustments to accommodate the employee’s injury because he was performing his role and failed to provide any medical certificates to suggest he could not perform his role
  • In rejecting the worker’s arguments, the court cited the decision in Watts v Australian Postal Corporation, finding that AGHS only had to consider reasonable adjustments for the position which the worker had occupied before the injury
  • This was not possible in this case, as the medical certificates he provided suggested he was unfit to perform “fitter” duties and no adjustments could assist him

Employment Law – Tips for Employers

Our Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team recommends employers:

  • seek the assistance of an employment lawyer to understand the impacts of this employment decision
  • when considering the termination of an employee who has been injured in the workplace, seek advice from an employment lawyer on the appropriate process to apply to ensure that relevant laws are not breached
  • a variety of protections apply to employees who have been injured in the workplace and steps need to be taken to ensure compliance with the various laws that provide for such protections when considering terminating an employee
  • ensure employment contracts and employment law policies comply with relevant employment laws, Fair Work Commission decisions, common law employment law principles and contractual obligations
  • damages can apply for breaches of employment laws, employment contracts and some employment law policies (which an employment lawyer can advise on)
  • raise any employment law questions with an employment lawyer

Employment Law – More Information

Please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team on 9635-7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers.