A 52-YEAR-OLD truck driver has failed to convince a tribunal that coal producer Newlands discriminated against him based on age when it denied him an opportunity to train on an excavator.

The truck driver, who had been employed by the Xstrata subsidiary since 2011, lodged a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission after an employee allegedly told him he was ‘too old’ to participate in workplace training.

After making a complaint to management, which was investigated by the employer and found to be unsubstantiated, the truck driver resigned from his position in early 2013, citing that he felt uncomfortable and victimised at work.

The Anti-Discrimination Commission transferred proceedings to the Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal, which ruled against the complainant, finding the company had not discriminated against him based on age.

Rejecting the truck driver’s evidence which related to the ages of other candidates for training in their 20s, 30s and 40s, QCAT member Joanne Browne accepted Newlands’ argument that training was offered on a ‘needs basis’.

“[The] evidence is that age is not a factor in relation to whether an employee is trained and the decision to train an employee is made by the supervisor. [The HR manager] states that Newlands have in place an equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy that provides that age cannot be taken into account in determining whether an employee is trained,” she noted.

“[The complainant] was given many opportunities at Newlands to be trained on other equipment. Furthermore there is evidence that Newlands gave other employees aged 50 years and over the opportunity to be trained on an excavator.

“It is also accepted that another employee who is younger …[and] was working in the same pit as [the complainant] was denied the opportunity to be trained on an excavator.”

Further, arguments that the organisation was victimising the worker by refusing applications for carer’s leave and moving him from ‘pit to pit’ after the complaint about age discrimination was made, were found to be unsubstantiated.

“It is reasonable to infer that [the complainant] has effectively formed a view about the circumstances of his working environment giving rise to the allegations and this has clouded his judgment about decisions allegedly made by [his supervisor] in relation to the approval of leave; and to place [the complainant] on certain equipment in different pits for work,” Member Browne said.

The truck driver’s application for compensation on grounds of age-discrimination was rejected.

Implications for Members

This case demonstrates the importance of maintaining workplace polices that outline the processes for employee engagement, including training opportunities and equal opportunity policies.

AMMA members are encouraged to stipulate in clear terms how training opportunities are awarded to employees, and the application process to be followed if such opportunities are sought.

Additionally, Newlands found some protection in its investigative process where complaints were received, which provides valuable insight about the benefits of maintaining and communicating the procedures associated with workplace conflict.

AMMA Training & Development can provide tailored training opportunities to help your leaders resolve disputes and minimise risks associated with discrimination. For more information, contact AMMA Training & Development on 1800 891 662.

For workplace relations matter, AMMA’s team of expert consultants can provide your organisation with guidance, advice and information about managing conflict in the workplace. Contact your local AMMA office for more information.