Court action over alleged disability discrimination

26 February 2013

Note: Reference to prosecution in this media release is a general reference to the FWO commencing proceedings for the imposition of civil penalties and should not be taken to be a reference to criminal proceedings.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is prosecuting the operators of a medical practice in Sydney, alleging a young vision-impaired receptionist was discriminated against on the grounds of her disability and underpaid more than $20,000.

Facing court is Rocky Holdings Pty Ltd, which operates a medical practice trading as ‘Medical Centre 2000’ at Liverpool.

Also facing court are brothers Dr Ahmed Mohamed and Dr Ismail Mohamed, who are directors of Rocky Holdings and managers of the medical practice. Dr Ahmed Mohamed is also the majority owner of the practice.

It is alleged that the disability discrimination provisions of the Fair Work Act were breached when a part-time receptionist at the medical practice was underpaid a total of $20,847 between 2009 and 2012 because of her disability.

The employee, aged 18 to 21 at the time, suffers a disability affecting her vision, being retina detachment, cataracts and high pressure.

It is alleged that the employee was a patient of Dr Ismail Mohamed when he offered her work at the medical practice in December, 2009.

It is alleged that the employee was required to do more than a month of unpaid training before being paid a flat rate of $7 to $8 an hour from February, 2010 to February, 2012.

The employee was allegedly entitled to have been paid more than $10 an hour for normal hours and more than $17 an hour for some weekend, public holiday and overtime work under the Modern Award that applied to her position.

Other receptionists at the medical practice performing the same work as the employee were allegedly paid a higher rate of pay than the employee.

Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

Discriminatory behaviour can include dismissing an employee, threatening to dismiss an employee, reducing an employee’s hours, denying training and promotion opportunities or refusing to employ, promote or train an employee.

Workplace laws relating to issuing pay slips were allegedly also breached.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Dr Ahmed Mohamed and Dr Ismail Mohamed were involved in Rocky Holdings committing several breaches of workplace laws.

The individuals face penalties of up to $6600 per breach the company faces penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders for Rocky Holdings to rectify the underpayment of the employee and pay her compensation for non-economic loss suffered, including hurt, humiliation and distress.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney on March 15.

Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fairwork.gov.au. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman on Twitter @fairwork_gov_au external-icon.png or find us on Facebook external-icon.png.

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director, Media & Stakeholder Relations,
(03) 9954 2561, 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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