Transfer refusal contained no race discrimination

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Transfer refusal contained no race discrimination

The Commonwealth Bank did not racially discriminate against a call centre worker of Indian origin by refusing to grant her request for a non-telephone position, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has ruled.

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The Commonwealth Bank did not racially discriminate against a call centre worker of Indian origin by refusing to grant her request for a non-telephone position, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal has ruled.

Commencing work for the bank in 1999 at a call centre, the worker requested a transfer to a non-telephone position, such as in a clerical or support role, after she returned from a seven month 'career break'. She said that she needed either to work temporarily in a non-telephone position or take more leave because of her son's medical condition and her own health.

The worker claimed that before she went on unpaid leave, many people of non-Indian background were permitted to work in such positions if, for example, they had a sore throat or did not feel well enough to speak on the phone.

She argued CBA had refused her request because some managers considered her to be 'aggressive' or 'difficult', adding that her communication style and in particular the use of her arms when she is speaking, was different to non-Indian workers and was the cause of the bank's refusal.

CBA argued their were no permanent non-telephone positions available for the worker at the time of her request, apart from management roles which she was not qualified for.

Race bias not proven

Deputy President Hennessy was not convinced the Bank's treatment of the worker amounted to a denial of a benefit of employment.

'The circumstances in which the worker asked to be placed in a non-telephone role are likely to be materially different from the circumstances in which other, non-Indian, employees were previously placed in those roles,' Hennessy said.

The DP said it is highly unlikely that the evidence about her communication style 'would support an inference that a reason that she was refused a non-telephone position was her race or a characteristic that appertains generally to people of her race'.

'There was very little concern about AO's communication style on the phone. In any case, those concerns would not be relevant to a decision to place her in a non-telephone role,' the DP said. '[The worker] perceived herself as being "quiet" and "introverted". It is unlikely she would be able to prove that any of these characteristics were characteristics that generally appertain to people from an Indian background.'

Leave to bring a complaint of race discrimination was refused.

AO v Commonwealth Bank of Australia [2007] NSWADT 135 (21 June 2007)

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