Lawyers win court order to prevent disabled workers being misled about legal rights

26 February 2014
Employment law firm Maurice Blackburn has secured a Federal Court order that will protect thousands of underpaid intellectually disabled workers from being misled about their legal rights.

The law firm, which is running a discrimination class action on behalf of more than 10,000 workers with intellectual disabilities, sought the order after the Federal Government announced plans to establish a payment scheme for these workers.

Under the scheme, the Government said it would make a one-off payment to workers who were underpaid while working at disability enterprises around Australia, but only if they waived their right to be part of the discrimination class action.

Following the court order made by Justice Jennifer Davies this week, the Government is only permitted to communicate in writing with the workers about the payment scheme as it affects their participation in the class action, and must give a draft of any communication to Maurice Blackburn at least 10 days before it is sent.

Maurice Blackburn employment lawyer Emeline Gaske said the judge had told the court she was satisfied there was potential for the workers to be confused and uncertain about the relationship between the class action and the Government's payment scheme.

"We are pleased with this ruling because it will help to protect intellectually disabled workers from unfairly signing away their legal rights," Ms Gaske said.

"Our class action is seeking to recover underpayments for up to 10,000 intellectually disabled workers, who are among the most vulnerable and lowest paid in our community.

"We hope for a speedy resolution of this case so these underpaid workers - some who earn less than a dollar an hour - can get the pay they deserve."

The class action relates to the use of a wage assessment tool that was found by the full Federal Court to unlawfully discriminate against people with intellectual disabilities.

The case is due to return to the Federal Court in May.