Disability discrimination claim lodged against BHP and Carey Mining
19 December 2013
Employment law experts Maurice Blackburn have lodged a disability discrimination claim in the Australian Human Rights Commission on behalf of a highly qualified deaf man who was unlawfully sacked while working in a West Australian mine site.
Andrew Myers, aged 40, is deaf but wears hearing aids and a cochlear implant. He has a range of qualifications that allow him to operate heavy vehicles and machinery in construction and mining, and is also a licensed pilot.
Andrew was declared fit to work in a medical assessment with a pass rate of 98 per cent. In May 2013, he was contracted by Carey Mining to work on a BHP mining site at Area C in north Western Australia.
His lawyer Kamal Farouque, Principal Lawyer at Maurice Blackburn said: "Andrew was very upfront with his employer and everyone around him about being hearing impaired and was told by various company people they would support him. They appointed him and he went through the induction process. He was told they would support him to ensure he was able to communicate with colleagues. He did a health and safety induction test and got a 100 per cent result.
"After two to three days on the job, his immediate colleagues told him he was performing well and they had no problems and that any issues with the two-way radio would be fixed. Suddenly he was called to a meeting and told by Carey Mining he couldn't work anymore because BHP thought there was a communication problem. Carey Mining also told him that they couldn't fault his performance. Andrew was later told by Carey Mining that it had made the decision because of a communication problem."
Andrew says he remains devastated by what happened. "I felt like it was the worst time of my life and I was completely helpless. I was very hurt and upset but I knew that I had to stay strong and show that I am a good person and a good worker. I can fly a plane, if I can do that - I can work on a mining site.
"I could not believe what was happening to me. They promised me that they would help me and support me to work with BHP and Carey Mining for 20 to 25 years - that there was work for all those years.
"It was my dream to work in the mine. I couldn't believe it when they told me I was terminated. I've had discrimination all my life but not as open as this."
Mr Farouque said Andrew had been unlawfully discriminated against because of his disability. "Any communication issue could have been overcome by making reasonable adjustments. From what Andrew was first told by Carey Mining, it seems that BHP didn't want him on site because of his disability.
"Andrew is a highly skilled, experienced worker who could have continued working, but they then cut him off at the knees and did not give him a good shot at this job, and a chance to prove himself."
Deafness has been defined as the second biggest health issue facing Australia today
An estimated one in six Australians are affected by hearing loss.
There are approximately 30,000 deaf Auslan users with total hearing loss
By 2050 it is projected that one in four Australians will have hearing loss
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers