Historic $109 million dollar class action settlement paid to workers with intellectual disabilities

29 May 2019
Almost 7,000 workers with intellectual disabilities have been paid $109 million following an historic class action settlement reached in 2016, after the Federal Government scheme responsible for administering payments concluded this week.

In 2013, Maurice Blackburn commenced a Federal Court class action against the Commonwealth of Australia alleging disabled workers working in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) had been underpaid in breach of disability discrimination laws.

The class action followed an earlier Federal Court case in 2012 brought by two individual workers with intellectual disabilities, where the Federal Court determined that using the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) – used to determine wages for people with a disability – was discriminatory and contravened the Act.

Following the ruling, workers with intellectual disabilities at ADE continued to be underpaid under the BSWAT tool and the Commonwealth refused to compensate the workers.

A class action was launched by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers to end the discrimination and seek compensation for those workers who had lost wages as a result.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein, who led the class action, said the conclusion this week of the Federal scheme administering payments “was a fitting end to an historic fight to seek access to justice and a fairer wages system for intellectually disabled workers. These workers are some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the labour market.”

“This week the Department of Human Services have advised that almost 7,000 intellectually disabled workers have received compensation just shy of $109 million,” Mr Bornstein said.

“The average payment made to workers through the scheme was over $15,000 but more widely the case was significant in helping to remedy the wrongs committed against workers with intellectual disabilities, many of whom had been earning as little as 99 cents an hour.

“The outcome in this case and the subsequent compensation paid to these workers was the result of a hard-fought David and Goliath battle over many years by a small team of advocates who refused to give up and whose efforts helped to achieve a significant advance for workers with disabilities in Australia,” he said.

Media inquiries: Paddy Murphy on 0490 297 391 or Jade Thompson on 0417 969 438.

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