Addiction to methadone considered a disability

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Addiction to methadone considered a disability

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has held that an addiction to methadone is a disability, so the employee in issue was entitled to protection from victimisation and discrimination providing he can substantiate his case.

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9/03

 

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has held that an addiction to methadone is a disability, so the employee in issue was entitled to protection from victimisation and discrimination providing he can substantiate his case.

This case decided the preliminary issue of whether methadone addiction was a disability under the legislation.

Background

The employer, Botany Bay Council, applied to have a complaint dismissed for being outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

An employee, addicted to methadone, claimed he was forced to resign from his position as a labourer because of his treatment by the Council and other employees once his addiction was discovered..

The council argued that the worker's methadone addiction did not constitute a 'disability' for the purposes of the Act. The Council put the case on the basis that he did not manifest any disabling symptoms at the time of the alleged discrimination.

Jurisdiction

The Tribunal accepted the employee's argument:

‘The fact that a person who suffers from a disorder feels “normal” and is able to lead a 'normal life' while taking appropriate treatment does not mean that he or she no longer has a disability within the meaning of the Act. ...

'The respondents submit that because the claim that the applicant was presumed to be HIV/AIDS infected or to have Hepatitis (the imputed disability claim) was not part of the originating complaint to the Board, the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to hear and determine the claim. Accordingly, para 7 of the Points of Claim should be dismissed. The applicant refutes the respondents' contention and submits that para 7 of the Points of Claim does not introduce a new complaint. Instead, it simply particularises what was contained in the initiating complaint.

'The applicant's letter of complaint is a one page handwritten document. It makes no reference to the relevant provisions of the Act and only briefly outlines the alleged unfair treatment the applicant was receiving from the respondent as a result of the discovery of his methadone use. It states inter alia: "work mates are starting telling stories".'

'The Applicant submits that the Points of Claim at para 13(h) do no more than particularise what these stories were:

"There had been speculation in the workplace about the possible transmission of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or infection of staff with the Human Immunodeficiency viruses or hepatitis viruses".

'...We are satisfied that we have jurisdiction to hear and determine the Applicant's imputed disability claim. In reaching this conclusion, we have taken into account the following:

  • The applicant was unassisted when he wrote his originating complaint.

  • The complaint makes reference to workmates telling stories as a consequence of the Council's discovery of the applicant's methadone use.

  • The applicant does not seek to widen his complaint by now alleging a different ground of discrimination (such as race or age) to that contained in his complaint.

  • The alleged imputation is directly linked to the discovery of the applicant's methadone use.'

The matter was listed for a case conference on a date to be fixed.

See: Carr v Botany Bay Council & Anor [2003] NSW ADT 209 - 9 September 2003.

 

 

 

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