QLD Discrimination with Employment Because of Disability?

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14 January 2015
Just wanted to ask: my partner got a casual position for a call centre. He signed his employment contract electronically and was meant to start today. He has been working in call centres for 8 years and today the HR manager met the new staff and they were suppose to commence training. He has mild cerebral palsy in his one arm, they manager looked at his arm and took him into a meeting room.

Her first words as they sat down was, 'I see you have a disability what is it?" He replied it was cerebral palsy (mild). She then stated there is a lot of data entry and note taking and it was not noted you have a disability (which is mild). The interviewers were fine and did not say anything. She stated she was unsure if he would have trouble with the role as it was outbound calls and a lot of note taking. She then informed my partner she would step out of the room to talk to his manager and if he minded and if he could wait. He stated yes.

After 5 minutes she returned to the room and said I was talking to your manager and we were unprepared about your disability and want to speak to the general manager and that they will get back to him tomorrow about the decision. She stated she was a bit worried as from the company's point of view as the role may not be suitable for him. He replied that he has worked in call centres for 8 years but if you want to talk to the general manager that is fine. She then stated she will get back to him tomorrow of the outcome.

Is this discrimination? How can we take it further? Should I see a lawyer?


Hi Romey92,

Disability discrimination is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Section 5 of this act prevents employers from discriminating against someone because of a disability. This may mean they need to make reasonable adjustments to a workplace so a person with disability does not have difficulty in employment. Someone with a disability has a right to the same employment opportunities as someone without a disability.

Here is a link to the legislation: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2014C00013

This means, employers must offer equal employment opportunities to all applicants. If a person with a disability can do the essential activities or "inherent requirements" of a job, they should have just as much chance at getting the job as someone without a disability.

In this case an essential activity for a call centre job may be the ability to communicate by telephone or take notes. But it is not an "inherent requirement' to hold the phone in the hand or take notes in the conventional way. Selection by employers should choose be based on merit ( a person's ability to perform the inherent requirements of the job) and assumptions should NOT be made by employers about what a person can or cannot do as a result of having a disability.

I would first contact the employer and request that based on your previous experience and their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, to give your partner a chance at proving he can carry out the essential activities of the job with reasonable adjustments made to his equipment (if necessary) for say 1-3 months over a trial period. If they do not agree to that, perhaps you can complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission; https://www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints/complaint-guides