A 40-year-old Dandenong man is fighting to keep his long-term job with cardboard giant Visy, with the company accused of discrimination in threatening to sack the veteran employee.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has filed a discrimination application in Federal Court, seeking an injunction to restrain Visy from terminating the man, Mr Agron Rexhepi, in a bid to get him back to work immediately.
Lawyer Josh Bornstein, principal in the employment division of Maurice Blackburn, said the company has threatened to sack Mr Rexhepi, in a baffling case of direct discrimination.
"Mr Rexhepi has a long and unblemished record at Visy since he began working there as a labour hand in 1996, even fighting his way back from a serious back injury in 2001 to contribute his knowledge as a quality control manager," Mr Bornstein said.
"He was seriously injured in 2001 during his time as a floor supervisor and he battled hard to return to work quickly on modified office duties. He went back on the floor years later when needed until agreeing to a company request two years ago to move to a new role as a quality control manager."
Recently, a new manager suspended Mr Rexhepi from work and directed that he attend a medical examination - although there is no suggestion that he is in any way impeded in performing his quality control work, which is office-based.
The company then asked the doctor to advise whether Mr Rexhepi was fit to perform the role he undertook prior to being injured in 2001. As a result, the company now claims he is not fit for continued employment. Visy has suspended him and is now threatening to terminate his employment.
"One of the most bizarre things in this situation is the threat of termination cites Mr Rexhepi as being incapable of performing the duties of his former role - it totally ignores hat he has been in a new and entirely different position since 2011," Mr Bornstein said.
"Further to that, the doctor who examined Mr Rexhepi at Visy's direction says that Mr Rexhepi has the capacity to perform quality control work - which is the work he has been enjoying for the last two years."
National Secretary of the Print Division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Lorraine Cassin, said the company's actions lacked logic and Mr Rexhepi should be able to return to his current role.
"We want the court to order Visy to not only immediately return Mr Rexhepi to work, but we are seeking a hearing to have this matter resolved so that he can permanently return to his job," Ms Cassin said.
"He has done everything the company has required and requested of him, he hasn't set a foot wrong in his work, and in return he is threatened with the sack."
Mr Bornstein said the case also highlights an often neglected aspect of the ongoing national debate about productivity.
"One of the key factors that the debate neglects is the quality of management in this country and whether greater effort should be put into managerial competence and training. I suspect that this case will shed some light on this important but neglected issue," he said.
The urgent hearing sought by Maurice Blackburn is listed for Tuesday 22 January at 2.15pm in the Federal Court.