Pregnant mum?s protest pays

By ALEX EASTON

aeaston@northernstar.com.au

A PREGNANT Lismore Base Hospital worker was sexually discriminated against when she was told to go on leave after asking to be put on light duties, a Sydney tribunal has found.

North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford yesterday said the service was considering appealing the the Administrative Decisions Tribunal's judgment, which awarded pathology worker Kylie Jordan $7500 in damages.

However, while the tribunal upheld the complaint of indirect sexual discrimination, it dismissed a complaint by the woman that the hospital had victimised her.

In their judgment, tribunal members said Ms Jordan had asked to be put onto light duties in 2002 when she began struggling with her work as a blood collector during the final months of her pregnancy.

However, operations manager David Newell told her she would have to take annual, sick, long service or unpaid leave because there were no suitable vacancies for her in the health service and no money to create a new position for her.

The tribunal upheld Ms Jordan's claim that she could have swapped jobs with another person within the health service, but that Mr Newell had not considered the option even after she asked him to.

"We are satisfied .. that, rather than impose the discriminatory requirement (to do the same job or go on leave), it was possible for (Northern Rivers Area Health Service) to have made considerably greater efforts to accommodate Ms Jordan's needs," the tribunal said in its judgment.

Ms Jordan told the tribunal that having to manage the complaint had put a strain on her family.

She told the tribunal that the thought of falling pregnant again now made her feel distressed and that she sometimes felt resentment towards her child for being the cause of that distress ? which then created feelings of guilt.

Because she had to start her leave early, she had been unable to stay at home with her baby for as long as she had planned before returning to work.

"What was supposed to be one of the happiest times has been ruined by this whole ordeal," the tribunal quoted Ms Jordan saying.

Ms Jordan yesterday declined to comment for this story, with the solicitor that represented her at the hearing, Jeff Sewell, saying she still worked at the hospital and that the matter was still before the courts because the deadline for both parties to ask for costs had not passed.

Mr Crawford said the health service had since changed its policies to allow job swaps in similar situations.

The health service was getting legal advice to see whether the case could set a precedent that might disrupt the service.

He said he had no objection to the $7500 payout, but that if the case did set a precedent and could be challenged, the health service would launch an appeal.

A decision on an appeal would be made within the next week.



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