Boss fined $30,000 after ‘sacking’ maternity leaver

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Boss fined $30,000 after ‘sacking’ maternity leaver

When a Vic aged-care worker returned from maternity leave, she found that all her shifts had been given away to other employees. Her employer has now been fined a total of $30,888 for this act of discrimination.

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When a Victorian aged-care worker returned from maternity leave, she found that all her shifts had been given away to other employees. Her employer has now been fined a total of $30,888 for this act of discrimination.

The woman, in her 30s, was a permanent part-time worker before taking maternity leave, working six afternoon shifts, and one sleepover shift per fortnight.

However, when she returned to work she was initially told there were no hours available for her.

New roster

While the employee was on maternity leave, a new roster was introduced reallocating the woman’s afternoon shifts to other workers, without her being consulted.

She was subsequently offered only two sleepover shifts per fortnight and no afternoon shifts.

When the woman stated that she could not do sleepover shifts because of family and carer responsibilities for her 11-month old baby, her employer stated that if she did not accept the sleepover shifts this would be taken as her resignation, in what amounted to a constructive dismissal under workplace laws.

The company, A Dalley Holdings Pty Ltd (which operates the Bellarine Court aged-care facility at Geelong), has been fined $27,720 and Anglesea man, Andrew Dalley, who manages and part-owns the centre, has been fined a further $3168.

$5000 compensation

The company and Dalley have also been ordered to pay the woman $5000 in compensation.

The fines and compensation order, imposed by the Federal Court in Melbourne, are the result of a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Fair Work Ombudsman group manager, Michael Campbell, said the case highlights that it is serious breach of workplace laws to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy and family-and-carer responsibilities.

‘Employers also need to be aware that employees have a lawful right to resume their previous position — or another mutually agreed position — on return from parental leave,’ he said.

Unlawful

The Federal Court found that the conduct breached the Fair Work Act provisions that make it unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy and family-and-carer responsibilities.

The conduct also contravened the requirement under workplace laws for employers to consult with employees who are on parental leave about decisions that may affect their position, and to allow employees to resume their previous
position (or another mutually agreed position) on return from parental leave.

Other provisions of workplace laws were also breached, including laws that make it unlawful to take adverse action against employees because they have accessed a workplace right such as an entitlement to maternity leave.

It is the fourth time the Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties in a prosecution case relating to pregnancy discrimination.

The former operator of a mobile phone business was fined $5940 last year for discriminating against a Geelong employee when she attempted to return from parental leave.

Demoted

The former owner-operators of a Sydney printing business were fined $23,760 and ordered to pay $2207 compensation last year for committing sex and pregnancy discrimination breaches by demoting and mistreating an employee after she told them she was pregnant.

The operator of a Perth child care centre was last year fined $13,200 and ordered to pay $5000 compensation to an employee it pressured into resigning after she became pregnant.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also prosecuting the owner-managers of a Vic company for allegedly discriminating against a young part-time shop assistant on the grounds of her pregnancy. The matter is still before the Court.

Information about unlawful discrimination and the types of behaviour that constitute it is available here

Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit the website. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.
 
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