Resources: Blogs

Put it in writing


Court rejects employee’s proposed adjustments to workplace

Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation imposes positive obligations on employers to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to accommodate an employee’s disability, unless doing so would cause unjustifiable hardship to the business.

Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation imposes positive obligations on employers to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace to accommodate an employee’s disability, unless doing so would cause unjustifiable hardship to the business.

A failure to make such reasonable adjustments may constitute disability discrimination.

In a recent decision, the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Court) considered the reasonableness of proposed workplace adjustments for an employee who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Kristjansson v State of Queensland [2018] FCCA 3894).

The employee, a payroll client services officer with Queensland’s Department of Health, had been off work because he believed he was being bullied and harassed in the workplace. His employer made several attempts to engage him in a return-to-work process and find a placement for him within the Department.

After two failed attempts at a placement, the employee claimed he was unlawfully discriminated against because his employer had refused to make the following four reasonable adjustments to accommodate his disability:

  • provide a support person on the first day who was able to be contacted with any concerns and to attend meetings with him;
  • allow the employee to record any discussion on a voice recorder;
  • that all directions to the employee be made in writing; and
  • provide the employee with 24 hours’ notice in writing of all meetings.

Ultimately, the Court held that the employer had not unlawfully discriminated against the employee as alleged.

The Court went on to state that, even if the failure to provide those adjustments resulted in less favourable treatment to the employee, implementation of the adjustments would have caused the employer unjustifiable hardship. In particular:

  • having to train an additional person to support the employee placed a ‘very high burden’ on the employer;
  • allowing the employee to record any discussion would make it difficult to build and maintain trust and cohesiveness in the workplace and would likely have the effect of further ostracising the employee;
  • requiring all directions to be made in writing was impractical and potentially unsafe – particularly in cases of emergency where directions needed to be followed urgently; and
  • requiring 24 hours’ notice of meetings was impractical and contrary to how a workplace is run.

The Court dismissed the employee’s claim on all counts.

Lessons for employers

Employers should be mindful of the obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabilities and assist an employee to perform their employment duties. In such situations, careful assessment should be made about what can reasonably be done to assist an employee in the circumstances of the particular business. However, there is a limit to the obligation and employers will not be required to make reasonable adjustments that impose unjustifiable hardship on their business.


Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Similar articles

Employer found liable for workers compensation despite worker’s unreasonable perceptions

Fact or fiction

A recent decision of the New South Wales Personal Injury Commission serves as a reminder of the differing standards of proof when determining liability for claims of bullying and/or harassment under workers compensation laws and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).


Employer unlawfully discriminated against employee with breastfeeding responsibilities

It’s a tent-s situation

There are a number of personal attributes that are protected by Australia’s federal and state anti-discrimination laws, such as a person’s race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibilities, breastfeeding, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.


Ausgrid to pay $600,000 for fatal electricity incident which occurred 9 weeks after similar incident

The NSW District Court has heard how following an incident involving the low voltage pole changeovers which caused significant injuries to a worker, a similar incident occurred about nine weeks later, this time causing a fatality.


Commission confirms inappropriate touching constituted sexual harassment warranting summary dismissal

‘Scuse you

Sexual harassment in the workplace has been the subject of significant reform over the past few years, with an even greater onus on employers now to take proactive measures to minimise or eliminate the risk of sexual harassment in connection with work.


Employers delay sinks bid for injunctive relief

Speak now

When seeking to enforce a restraint, it is important that employers seek to enforce the restraint in a timely manner to prevent future or an ongoing breach. Any delay will be considered by the courts when assessing whether it is reasonable to enforce the restraint.


Two-year post-employment restraint on hairdresser found to be unreasonable

Splitting hairs

When it comes to drafting post-employment restraints in employment contracts, it is important for employers to consider the purpose of the restraint and whether or not the restraint reasonably serves that purpose.


Let's talk

please contact our directors to discuss how ouR expertise can help your business.

We're here to help

Contact Us
Let Workplace Law become your partner in Workplace Relations.

Sign up to receive the latest industry updates with commentary from the Workplace Law team direct to your inbox.