Chartered accountant wins disability discrimination case

Published 25 Jan 2017

A chartered accountant has won nearly $25,000 in compensation after successfully proving her employer discriminated against her due to a disability.

The applicant was working for big four firm Deloitte when she contracted tuberculosis, a serious bacterial infection that can cause death in extreme cases.

According to court documents, the woman alleged the company's human resources department and senior partners pressured her into resigning after being coerced into taking unpaid leave while recovering in hospital. 

People who are forced to take long periods away from the workplace due to illness or injury can receive financial support through income protection insurance or critical illness cover, depending on their condition.

However, the applicant instead took the unpaid leave and only returned to work several months afterwards - once she had largely recovered.

Bullying and discrimination

On her return to work, the woman was given mainly administrative work, which she described as demeaning, and was forced to undergo a performance review.

The tribunal noted that it was unusual for the applicant to be judged on her performance immediately after a serious illness and while she wasn't completing her usual day-to-day work.

The applicant filed a bullying complaint and was referred to the director of human resources, who allegedly placed pressure on her to resign and offered a severance package.

Meanwhile, the applicant claimed that various colleagues within the business had told her that senior managers wanted her to leave. She eventually went on sick leave and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

After a period away from the workplace, the applicant secured a different job with Commonwealth Bank.

Tribunal's decision

The tribunal ruled that Deloitte had discriminated against the woman due, in part, to her tuberculosis, which was deemed a disability.

As such, the applicant was awarded $14,307 for lost earnings and $10,000 in non-economic losses due to the deep distress caused by the discrimination and perceived bullying. However, she was forced to pay her own costs for bringing the case before a tribunal and was refused an additional $13,470 for counselling.

While tuberculosis does not usually cause total and permanent disability, the illness can spread from the lungs to almost all parts of the body, including the abdomen, the glands, the nervous system and the bones. This can cause lasting damage that could affect an individual's ability to work.

Are you eligible to pursue a TPD claim or critical illness claim? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Superannuation Lawyers.

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