How we helped a mum who had experienced discrimination at work

How we helped a mum who had experienced discrimination at work

Not all employers understand what the law says about protecting their employees’ rights against discrimination. Everyone has the right to have a workplace that is free from violence, bullying, victimisation and harassment. There are also protections and workplace rights that acknowledge your status, for example, as a parent or carer.

Carla* had been discriminated against by her former employer because she had taken time off to care for her sick child. Find out how we helped Carla reach a settlement with her former employer. 

Carla’s story

Carla is a young mother who had been working in a factory in regional Victoria.

It was her first job since giving birth to her son. She was excited to be back in the workforce and also relieved that she was able to support her growing family.

When we met Carla she had been working for nearly six months and had taken a few days personal time off work to care for her son when he was ill.

Carla believed that she had done all the right things – she had let her employer know as soon as possible before she took leave and had given them medical certificates when she returned to work.

Even though Carla’s employer was aware of her child-care responsibilities, they threatened to dismiss her because of the time she had taken off. They said that if she took another sick day they wouldn’t have a job for her.

It was when Carla’s employer dismissed her, just short of the six-month qualifying period for unfair dismissal protection, that she asked one of our lawyers to help her.

What Carla’s employer may not have known is that, regardless of when she was dismissed, her rights as a parent and carer are protected by law. She was exercising her workplace rights to take time off to care for her son.

How we helped Carla

Carla’s lawyer filed a general protections claim with the Fair Work Commission – the national workplace relations tribunal. The claim alleged adverse action and discrimination by Carla’s employer on the grounds of her status as a parent/carer and her exercising a workplace right.

It was good that Carla came to us early because this type of claim needs to be made within 21 days from the date of dismissal.

Following the process set by the Fair Work Commission, Carla’s employer then came to the table to negotiate the matter at a conciliation conference.

Carla attended the conference along with her lawyer, a Fair Work Commission conciliator and a legal representative from Carla’s workplace.

The successful result

The negotiation resulted in an award of compensation for loss of past and future earnings.

While the conference was difficult for Carla to take part in, her lawyer said that it was vindicating for her client. Carla’s employer had acknowledged that one of the reasons they had dismissed her was because of the actions she had taken as a parent and carer.

Carla was really pleased with the result. The compensation has allowed Carla to secure child care arrangements to support her return to work.

How we can help you

If you are being treated unfairly at work, find out more about your employment rights and how you can get help.

Also read more about workplace bullying and discrimination.

*not her real name