Damages awarded for discrimination on grounds of mental illness

Cases

Damages awarded for discrimination on grounds of mental illness

A local council has been ordered to pay compensation to a man with bi-polar disorder because one of its employees discriminated against him on the basis of his mental illness.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

11/03

 

A local council has been ordered to pay compensation to a man with bi-polar disorder because one of its employees discriminated against him on the basis of his mental illness.

The Qld Anti-Discrimination Tribunal awarded $17,000 to the complainant.

Background

Mr Bellamy complained against the Council and against Mr McTavish, the business manager of the Park, personally. He said that he was discriminated against on the basis of impairment - bi-polar disorder - in that he was banned from the park, his workplace, and otherwise treated less favourably than someone without that impairment would have been.

There was no dispute that Mr Bellamy suffered from an impairment. The respondents’ case was that there was in fact no discrimination, Mr Bellamy’s treatment having been on the basis that he behaved in a threatening way, not on the basis that he had a mental illness.

Conclusions

The Tribunal found that Mr McTavish, though not Mr Mathews, the CEO of the Council, treated Mr Bellamy less favourably than a hypothetical other person who had no mental illness.

His treatment of Mr Bellamy from 2 July 2001 and onwards was treatment which was substantially based on Mr Bellamy’s mental illness, The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr McTavish would not have treated Mr Bellamy in the way he did had Mr Bellamy not suffered from bi-polar disorder.

In acting to have Mr Bellamy banned from the park Mr McTavish was directly discriminating against him. The discrimination consisted of his making representations to Mr Mathews and agitating and recommending to Mr Mathews to have Mr Bellamy banned from the park. His actions in prevailing upon Mr Mathews amounted to discrimination against Mr Bellamy and that discrimination caused the ban in fact.

The Council was vicariously liable for the actions of Mr McTavish.

Further discrimination took place after Mr Bellamy’s return to the park. Mr McTavish continued to make insulting and derogatory comments about Mr Bellamy; he shunned him, and caused the caretaker to provide him with less assistance, and to be less friendly to him. There was unfavourable treatment of Mr Bellamy in connection with his renting of the schoolhouse, the accommodation for his business.

The Tribunal did not accept that the actions of banning Mr Bellamy from the park were reasonably necessary to protect anyone there, or indeed that they were reasonable at all.

The Tribunal found that the discrimination was significant; it had the effect of expelling Mr Bellamy from his workplace for over two months. It was undertaken by somebody who, while not Mr Bellamy’s employer, was in a position of power vis-a-vis Mr Bellamy in his work. It was deliberate and nasty.

It continued for just over 18 months. It had a significant effect on the atmosphere in Mr Bellamy’s workplace and contributed to Mr Bellamy deciding not to renew his licence at the end of the term. It concerned an attribute which Mr Bellamy wished to keep private.

The Tribunal awarded a sum of $15,000 as compensation for the hurt, humiliation and injury to feelings suffered by Mr Bellamy.

$2,000 was awarded as compensation for the economic loss to Mr Bellamy consequent on the ban from the park and the continuing effect on his work thereafter.

The Council was ordered to make a written apology to Mr Bellamy. However, the Tribunal did not order Mr McTavish to make an apology because it would not be a sincere one.

See: Bellamy v McTavish & Pine Rivers Shire Council [2003] QADT 15 - 7 October 2003 - Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Queensland (Member Jean Dalton).

 

 

 

Post details