Employees in Australia have “general protections” under the Fair Work Act of 2009, including certain workplace rights and the right to be free from undue influence or unlawful discrimination.
Whether you are working for a small business or a big corporation, it is important to know your legal entitlements as an employee to protect your health, safety and welfare in the workplace. This may come in handy in case of disputes, conflicts or accidents in the work environment.
Although companies often have a set resolution process or internal avenues for addressing workplace issues, such negotiations don’t always result in a fair agreement. Taking legal action is an option if the issue can’t be resolved internally.
The following are some of the workplace problems you can take to court:
Workplace bullying may involve the termination of employment. If you have been forced to resign or you think you have been wrongfully dismissed, you may make a claim for unfair dismissal or unlawful termination.
Such claims may be lodged to the Fair Work Commission or the state industrial relations commission (for state and local government employees).
Harassment is a repeated behaviour that is unwelcome, unsolicited, offensive, humiliating or threatening. This can include verbal abuse, threats of dismissal, spreading malicious rumours, sexual advances, sabotage, unjustified criticisms, and other forms of bullying.
Most employers will have a general complaints policy for employees to raise the matter formally. Such policies require that the issue be raised firstly with a supervisor or with the concerned employee. While it is always a good idea to try to sort out an issue informally and internally, this is not always possible.
If the harassment case is serious, you may file a complaint to public authorities such as the Fair Work Ombudsman, the state government agency for workplace health and safety, or even to the police (if harassment breaches the criminal law, e.g. stalking or violence).
An employee is entitled to compensation if he or she suffered an injury at work or developed a health problem due to the nature the job. If you suffer psychological distress due to workplace bullying, you may also be eligible for a worker’s compensation claim.
Compensation for the injury is awarded if the statutory requirements are met. You may make a claim for statutory benefits under the WorkCover no-fault scheme, or you make a separate claim for considerably higher compensation if you can prove that the injury was caused by your employer’s negligence.
Noncompliance with entitlements
Minimum entitlements include minimum wages, leave provisions, superannuation, and tax compliance. If your employer is not giving you the right pay rate or benefits, you can go after the money that is due you by taking the matter to court.
An employer has no right to take adverse action against an employee because of his or her race, colour, sexual orientation, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, religion, nationality, political opinion or social origin.
If you are being treated differently (and unfairly) than other employees, then you may contact the Fair Work Commission so they can investigate and take action on your behalf.
Disputes over contracting arrangements
If your employer dismissed you or threatened to sack you in order to hire you as an independent contractor for substantially the same work, you can file a case for sham contracting.
If your employer asks you to do work that is outside the terms in your contract, you may make a civil claim for breach of contract.
Before making any claim, seek legal advice to determine whether or not the nature of your dispute or case is covered by general protections laws. Also, note that some cases have time limits. For instance, discrimination claims must be lodged to court within 1 year of the discriminatory conduct occurring.
If you have an issue at work that you want to take to court, you may contact us at BTF Lawyers so we can help you settle things legally.