Public sector

Public sector employees who work for Federal or State bodies have legal rights that are covered by contract and specific public sector employment legislation. Generally public sector employees have greater protection than private sector employees, particularly whilst they are still employed, and are also bound by broad codes of conduct. Maurice Blackburn's employment lawyers are experienced in advising and representing both Federal and State public servants and have successfully acted for a range of executive and managerial level public sector employees.

If you are a public sector employee facing disciplinary action, dismissal, code of conduct investigations, inquiries, termination, or a change to pay or conditions, we can assist. We can advise you on your legal rights, help you navigate and understand the system and your options and represent you in negotiations, inquiries, investigations, processes or proceedings. Contact Maurice Blackburn to discuss how we can help you.

Public sector employment expertise

Maurice Blackburn lawyers are the public sector employment law specialists and have expertise in advising and representing public sector employees in employment, disciplinary and regulatory matters. We successfully represented a senior Victorian public servant who had been suspended for 6 months in a disciplinary process initiated after an ombudsman inquiry. This case resulted in the Federal Court issuing a landmark decision requiring the agency to rescind the suspension and reinstate the employee during the process.

Maurice Blackburn has also successfully represented public sector employees in cases concerning pay and conditions. In one case, we acted for a public sector employee whose employer had removed a work supplied vehicle of which she had always enjoyed full personal use. We successfully argued that in removing the vehicle, the employer had breached the employment contract and the employee was awarded damages for this breach. We also prevented the employer removing the use of the vehicle, by arguing that the employee had ‘acted to her detriment’ by not applying for promotions because her current position had the benefit of a work vehicle for personal use.

Contact us to find out how our specialist employment lawyers can assist you today.

Challenging unfair employment processes and decisions

Public Service employees who work for Federal or State governments enjoy special protections in the legislation that regulates their employment. This legislation is specific to each individual Federal or State entity and may be a Public Service Administration, Employment or Management Act. The rights conferred by this legislation may provide additional grounds on which to challenge an employer’s decision to terminate or discipline a public sector employee. Procedural fairness or natural justice is often a key right and, if denied, can be invoked to challenge unfair employment processes or decisions. At Maurice Blackburn we have the depth of understanding and experience to capitalise on the complex interaction of employment contracts and legislative rights, and secure the best outcome for you.

If you are employed in ongoing, term, temporary, casual or other employment, or on secondment, in a Public Service agency, Maurice Blackburn can help you understand and protect your rights.

Contact one of our offices today to discuss your case.

Workplace investigations

Maurice Blackburn are the best choice to protect your rights and ensure transparency in a workplace investigation. Legal privilege over workplace investigations is increasingly being claimed by both public and private organisations in order to withhold valid information and outcomes from employees, as this article in the Australian Financial Review discusses. The danger is that – within this shield of legal professional privilege – information and instruction can pass between the employer and the ‘independent investigator’, enabling the employer to covertly and even unlawfully influence the investigation and its outcome.

At Maurice Blackburn we strongly advise clients to first obtain formal assurances as to the complete transparency of any proposed ‘external’ investigation and the independence and impartiality of any workplace investigator to be so engaged. If you are facing a workplace investigation we can help, contact us today.

Successful cases

Quinn v Overland

Quinn v Overland [2010] FCA 799

Ms Quinn was represented by Maurice Blackburn in her action against her employer.


The Federal Court of Australia ordered an injunction in favour of Ms Quinn, a public servant, against her employer Victoria Police. The effect of the injunction prevented Ms Quinn’s employer from further suspending Ms Quinn from work. At that time, Ms Quinn was already suspended from work pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct that had been previously made against her.

In coming to his decision, Justice Bromberg, determined that Ms Quinn’s employer had failed to observe the statutory obligations imposed upon it by the Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic.).

Relevantly, the Act required the employer to provide its employees with procedural fairness in certain circumstances, and required the employer generally to observe “public sector employment principles”.

Notably, Justice Bromberg also highlighted the important value the Court prescribes to the non-economic characteristics of employment. Specifically, his Honour considered that the workplace provides the person with advantages beyond mere economic benefit, stating:

“Work provides employees with purpose, dignity, pride, enjoyment, social acceptance and many social connections. These non-pecuniary attributes of work are important and their denial can be devastating to the legitimate interests of any worker, either skilled or unskilled.”

Justice Bromberg considered that Ms Quinn’s suspension by Victoria Police had the effect of denying Ms Quinn of such non-economic benefits in a manner that was sufficiently detrimental and ordered that Ms Quinn’s suspension be lifted and she be permitted by her employer to return to work.

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Your initial consultation with our Executive Employment Lawyers is on a fixed fee. If your case proceeds we operate on an hourly rate.

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