Workplace Relations Review
Cases and Legislation November 2020
The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has rejected an employee’s claim that she was discriminated against because of her pregnancy and potential pregnancy.Read more...
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  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:
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:
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.
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