Heavy fine for racial discrimination

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Heavy fine for racial discrimination

A Full Federal Court confirmed a finding of racial discrimination against Qantas - based on the behaviour of a supervisor towards an employed engineer.

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A Full Federal Court confirmed a finding of racial discrimination against Qantas — based on the behaviour of a supervisor towards an employed engineer.

Federal Magistrate Raphael had accepted in the original hearing that discriminatory comments had been made to the licensed aircraft mechanical engineer and that these comments had contributed to his depressive illness.

Background

The engineer was from India and he arrived in Australia in 1982. He had spent the preceding 22 years in the United Kingdom where he worked for British Airways. He worked for Qantas for nearly 20 years before suffering a number of injuries.

Qantas dismissed him in October 2002, five months after his wife notified the company that he had developed depression and would not return to work for a long time.

Full Federal Court confirms findings of racial discrimination

The findings against the company were all based on comments either made by or condoned by the engineer’s supervisor.

These comments included that: the engineer resembled ‘a Bombay taxi driver'; he should be ‘walking up the stairs like a monkey’; and a number of comments implying that he was cheating the workers compensation system.

Federal Magistrate Raphael found that the medical evidence supported the view that the discriminatory incidents did contribute to the engineer's depressive illness. The magistrate awarded him damages of $40,000, interest of $14,853, plus compensation for past and future medical expenses — a total of $71,692.

The Full Court considered the grounds of appeal and the relevant evidence and upheld the racial discrimination case.

The Full Court also decided not to reduce the damages order despite finding that disability discrimination did not occur, contrary to the magistrate’s finding.

Qantas Airways Limited v Gama [2008] FCAFC 69 (2 May 2008)


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