The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission may accept a
complaint by a sacked employee despite signing a valid deed of
The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal recently rejected an
interlocutory application by an employer to dismiss a complaint
where the employee had signed a deed of release that included a
clause releasing the employer from any future claims.
The facts of the case
The employee suffered a number of work related injuries and had
been participating in a return to work plan. At a meeting with the
employer the employee's employment was terminated and she
signed a deed of release presented to her by the senior human
The deed released the employer from any claims being made
against it in relation to the employment, terms of the employment,
the proceedings and termination, except for claims for workers
compensation. In return the employee was paid $9,711.43 and
provided with a completed employment separation certificate,
statement of service and an outplacement program.
Two months later, the employee made a complaint to the
Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner against the employer
alleging discrimination on the basis of impairment. The
Commissioner considered a provision of the Queensland
anti-discrimination legislation which allows a complaint to be
accepted even where parties had agreed not to make a complaint,
where it is fair to do so.
The complaint was accepted by the Commissioner. Both parties
then attempted conciliation but the complaint was not resolved.
The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal
The employer then lodged an Interlocutory Application to dismiss
The Tribunal found that the Commissioner has the role of a
gatekeeper and once a complaint has been accepted and referred it
must be heard by the Tribunal. The Tribunal also found that the
Commissioner has the power to over-ride the effect of agreements
such as a deed of release, where parties have agreed not to make a
complaint, where it is fair to do so.
The Interlocutory Application by the employer was dismissed.
Lessons for employers
A deed of release is not absolute. The Anti-Discrimination
Commission may still accept a complaint made by an employee and the
Tribunial may hear the complaint even where parties have signed a
deed of release excluding a future claim under the
Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).
It is important for employers to obtain legal advice when
contemplating a separation of employment by way of deed of release
so as to reduce the risk of the employee making a future claim
against their employer.
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The firm has also been named as the fastest growing law firm in
Australia for 2009 by The Australian.
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