Resources: Blog

Rock, paper, scissors: injury, illness or disability?


What are reasonable adjustments?

In July 2015 the Federal Circuit Court of Australia delivered its judgment in Huntly v State of NSW, Department of Police and Justice (Corrective Services NSW) [2015] FCCA 1827 (Huntly’s case). The Court found that Corrective Services NSW unlawfully discriminated against Huntly and failed to make reasonable adjustments after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.

In July 2015 the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Court) delivered its judgment in Huntly v State of NSW, Department of Police and Justice (Corrective Services NSW) [2015] FCCA 1827 (Huntly’s case).

The Court found that Corrective Services NSW unlawfully discriminated against Huntly and failed to make reasonable adjustments after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. As a result, the Court ordered that Corrective Services NSW pay Huntly, a former employee, more than $180,000 plus interest for economic loss, pain, suffering and general damages.

Ms Huntly was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in June 2009. After taking 10 weeks leave she returned to work and was capable of performing some duties of her position.

Ms Huntly expressed interest in a position with the Corrective Intelligence Group (CIG) and was offered the CIG position. She commenced work in that position on 13 September 2010. Ms Huntly then sought permission to work from home and her request was denied and no reasons were given.

In May 2011 at a meeting Ms Huntly was informed that she could either agree to be medically retired or undergo medical assessment.

Ms Huntly underwent a medical assessment to determine whether she was fit for her substantive duties and the assessment found that she was not. The findings of the assessment were disputed by Ms Huntly who alleged that Corrective Services did not provide the inherent requirements of the position to the doctor nor ask him to consider what reasonable adjustments could be made to her position to enable her to continue in that position.

Ms Huntly was advised that her position would end and was placed on leave for several months pending a decision about her future.

During this time of leave, Corrective Services resisted Ms Huntly’s numerous requests for transfer to a suitable position prior to the employment relationship being terminated.

The Federal Circuit Court found that Ms Huntly did suffer from a disability, which her managers were aware of and that those managers should have investigated making reasonable adjustments to her workplace and employment as recommended by her treating doctors.


So what are reasonable adjustments?

Employers have an obligation under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA) and the relevant state/territory legislation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person with a disability, unless doing so will cause unjustifiable hardship to the employer.

Reasonable adjustments can include providing aids or other accommodations to allow the employee to perform the inherent requirements of their job.

Management must be aware of the obligations employers have with respect to reasonable adjustments, in Huntly’s case, the Court pointed out that there were:

“...unclear lines of management and supervisory responsibility...inability or unwillingness of managers and supervisors to accept responsibility for their actions,

It is important that managers are supported in considering reasonable adjustments that may be required for employees in accordance with the DDA.

A failure to provide reasonable adjustments for an employee’s disability is a failure to comply with the DDA, resulting in significant decisions from the Court in favour of employees such as Ms Huntly.


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

“All reasonable steps” and vicarious liability

You're a liability

Federal and State anti-discrimination legislation makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against or harass a person in their employment. The legislation also places liability on employers for the discriminatory conduct of their employees.


Employee dismissed for offensive remarks in the workplace

What did you say?

It goes without saying that employees should treat each other with respect and courtesy in the workplace. In a recent decision, the FWC was tasked with considering a claim from a dismissed employee who alleged that remarks he made in the workplace were not offensive and did not justify his dismissal.


Why clubs need to regulate fan and member behaviour at sporting events

Have a seat and take a stand

Racial abuse from fans and/or members certainly falls foul of discrimination laws and can lead to significant questions being asked of clubs and organisations about what steps they took or could have reasonably taken to prevent players from being subject to such behaviour.


The onus and presumption in adverse action matters

It’s on you

Under the general protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), it is unlawful for a person to take adverse action against another person for a proscribed reason. One of the features of the general protections provisions under the FW Act is the presumption that adverse action was taken for a proscribed reason unless it is proven that the adverse action was not taken for that reason.


Notice of termination in the employment contract

Put it in writing

When it comes to engaging new employees or promoting existing employees, it is crucial that employers prepare and review contracts of employment to ensure that they accurately reflect the terms which will govern an employee’s employment.


Termination of employment letters

In your letter

A termination of employment letter serves a significant purpose in bringing the employment relationship to an end.


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.

Signup to receive the latest industry updates with commentary from the Workplace Law team direct to you inbox.