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DISCRIMINATION at LAUNCESTON CITY COUNCIL

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

I believe that discrimination underpins this scandal, and that I was targeted and treated badly as a result of my Asperger's Syndrome.

Early in 2009, when my staff first began complaining about me to our Director and Human Resources, their perception that I was "too American" was a subject of frequent and openly stated complaint. They complained that my American-ness manifested in me being rude, inconsiderate, insensitive, loud, pedantic, and saying and doing inappropriate things.

These "too American" behaviours are the very essence of the bullying charges against me. However, they are also common complaints about people with Asperger's Syndrome, by people who are intolerant of the behviours associated with this disability.

Acting upon my staff's complaints at face value, the Launceston City Council commenced an effort to purge me from my position. And purge me, they did. They sacked my supervisor and maligned us both publicly, on the basis of my "proven" guilt, prior to my right of reply (and I was ultimately exonerated of these charges). When their own doctor flagged the medical basis for the conflict, LCC just hunkered down and fought harder, claiming that my Asperger's makes me a danger to the workplace.

Throughout this ordeal, I was "treated less favourably" by the Launceston City Council in just about every way imaginable:

  • singled out and disciplined for common workplace behaviours (e.g., unrinsed coffee cups, having a tattoo, using bad language conversationally);
  • treated in a way that was neither fair nor equitable, compared to my staff, prior to my right of reply or any sort of reasonable finding;
  • denied access to the charges against me, held in a secret investigation report;
  • stood down without pay for 16 weeks, while awaiting my right of reply and determination of outcomes;
  • treated as guilty until proven innocent, and then having been proved innocent, I was sacked anyway.

Furthermore, I believe that my supervisor, Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey, was also discriminated against, for standing up for my rights. He was sacked and publicly humiliated for not having taken action against me that would have contravened the Human Rights Act.

 

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Numerous codes of legislation exist that prohibit discrimination. For example,

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 states,

  15. Discrimination in employment
 

(2)  It is unlawful for an employer or a person acting or purporting to act on behalf of an employer to discriminate against an employee on the ground of the employee’s disability:
                     (a)  in the terms or conditions of employment that the employer affords the employee; or
                     (b)  by denying the employee access, or limiting the employee’s access, to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, or to any other benefits associated with employment; or
                     (c)  by dismissing the employee; or
                     (d)  by subjecting the employee to any other detriment.

 

The Fair Work Act 2009 states,

 

351 Discrimination

      (1) An employer must not take adverse action against a person who is an employee, or prospective employee, of the employer because of the person’s race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

 

342 Meaning of adverse action

 

Adverse action is taken by ...
an employer against an employee

  if...
the employer:
(a) dismisses the employee; or
(b) injures the employee in his or her employment; or
(d) discriminates between the employee and other employees of the employer.

 

The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 states,

 

16. Discrimination on ground of attribute

A person must not discriminate against another person on the ground of any of the following attributes:

(k) disability;
(s) association with a person who has, or is believed to have, any of these attributes.

 

19. Inciting hatred

A person, by a public act, must not incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or a group of persons on the ground of –

(b) any disability of the person or any member of the group; or

 

22. Areas of activity

     (1) Subject to the exceptions and exemptions specified in Part 5, this Act applies to discrimination and prohibited conduct, other than inciting hatred, by or against a person engaged in, or undertaking any, activity in connection with any of the following:

(a) employment;
(c) provision of facilities, goods and services;

And yet, it happened to me... in plain sight, in boldface type, in italics, underlined, with flashing red lights. It happened not behind the backs of the Mayor and Human Resources, but with their assistance and indeed, Council's public commendation.

Am I sure? Yes, I am sure. Here's what happened; tell me what you think:

 

Confirmation of my Disability

I suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. I refer to the following facts:

  • Council’s own psychiatrist originally flagged the condition and its relevance (without formally diagnosing it), by repeatedly citing behaviours characteristic of Asperger’s and recommending a treatment developed for a differential diagnosis of Asperger’s (Get the Sale Report: see especially Newport's comments end of page 7; page 9, second paragraph Dr Gershwin is...; first paragraph page 11; Items 18-22, and 25; See also botom of page 12, "Given the significant personality issues that act as a backdrop in this situation...").
  • Formal Diagnosis by Prof. Tony Attwood, the world expert on Asperger’s in women (Get Attwood's diagnosis).
  • Council’s denial of Attwood’s diagnosis, citing it as “preliminary only” (Get Council's Findings: see page 2, Item 12).
  • Verification of the diagnosis by Attwood (Get Attwood's confirmation).
  • Council further denied the diagnosis and made no attempt at accommodating it in my Termination Letter, by stating “Even if I were to accept that you may be experiencing personal issues that impacted on your behaviour...” (Get my Termination Letter).

Here's the thing: the Allegations were false in the first place, and were drummed up because of my staff's intolerance of my Asperger's and Dobrzynski's inflation of their prejudices. So it's not that I behaved badly because of my Asperger's, it's that my staff whipped themselves into a frenzy of righteous indignation because of their intolerance of my Asperger's, such that everything I did and didn't do came under their microscope of contempt - I remind you of the fingernails and coffee cups!.

 

Adverse Actions

Dismissal:
I was dismissed from my employment as a consequence of the Allegations against me and the fact that I resisted them. I refer to the following:

Injury:

I have suffered terrible injury at the hands of Council’s horrible treatment. They have treated me like I am a horrible person, someone to be afraid of and to be purged. This has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life.

  • Stress, Depression, Hypertension: I sustained progressive injury in the form of stress and depression from Human Resources refusing to take action to halt my staff’s insubordination; the stress started in April 2009, I was diagnosed with hypertension in June 2009, and my doctor put me on anti-depressants in October 2009. The situation simply grew worse, with me missing a lot of work from April 2010 to July 2010 (Get my Timelines of Workplace Stress and Medical Events).
  • Anxiety: When I was stood down on 23 July 2010, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I became so distraught that I was rushed to hospital by ambulance with great difficulty breathing.
  • Suicide attempt: I grew paralytically depressed, and became suicidal on 14 September 2010.
  • Paralytic Depression: From September to December 2010, I was rarely able to get out of bed, shower, brush my teeth, prepare simple meals, or launder my clothes. In late October, my doctor cleared me to return to work in accordance with the rehabilitation strategy previously voiced by Council’s psychiatrist and my Asperger’s doctor, but Council adamantly refused, citing the health and safety of other employees.
  • Unable to afford medical help or medication: By December, utterly penniless (not being paid for 16 weeks and unable to get Centrelink or workers compensation), unable to afford to see a doctor or refill my prescriptions, I sunk into a progressively deeper black hole.
  • Rock bottom: In mid-December, I admitted myself to hospital because I didn’t feel safe. The day I was released, I collapsed in a parking garage in a full blown panic attack, and was rushed off to hospital by ambulance thinking I was having a heart attack. The following day, the hospital sent the police to check on me, and they decided to escort me back to hospital. It has been a real hard go.

Less Favourable Treatment:
I was treated less favourably and less fairly than my accusers in every way imaginable. Furthermore, I was subjected to sanctions that other members of the workforce would not normally expect to suffer. Some examples include:

  • I faced allegations with no opportunity to see the substance or complaints against me, or even in many cases to know who made the complaints. I made no less than six attempts to get this information contained in the Sage Report, all rejected by Dobrzynski (Get my requests and Dobrzynski's rejections of access to the Sage Report):
    • Union Request for Copy of Report 8 September 2010,
    • Union Request to just see the Report 9 September 2010,
    • Right to Information request 24 August 2010,
    • Public announcement of Report's confidentiality 30 August 2010,
    • Fair Work Hearing 22 October 2010, and
    • Worker's Compensation hearing December 2010;
  • Disciplinary procedures were invented by the General Manager, i.e., Clause 16.16 of our EBA was side-stepped (Get Clause 16.16, and Get Dobrzynski's letter to Stuart Bucknell, the Union rep);
  • No warnings of any kind were given to me, nor was I given any opportunity for reply, prior to being stood down, which I believe may be required by our EBA;
  • I was stood down for a total of 20 weeks, 16 without pay, 2 with pay, and 2 on Workers Compensation; our Enterprise Agreement prohibits a stand down longer than 2 weeks without a police investigation (Clause 16.15) (Get this section of the EBA);
  • While on stand down, I was prohibited from accessing Council resources such as Human Resources and the Employee Assistance Program, and was banned from entering upon any Council property or speaking with colleagues (Get some of the many documents demonstrating my stand down);
  • Even though still employed, I was wilfully cut off from email access and access to my electronic calendar and notes, 24 hours before my defence submission was due (Get my cut-off Notice- it was pretty ruthless); in doing so, Council actually blocked my personal email address as a sender as well, so I no longer have access to the Union rep, HR, Payroll, etc in resolving loose ends such as reimbursements and personal property;
  • Banned from accessing or retrieving my personal property in my office and Museum stores (my belongings are still being withheld) (Get the letter Rejecting my Access, which I received upon showing up as previously scheduled).
  • I was disciplined for things that are widespread and not disciplined in others, e.g., unrinsed coffee cups, bad language in the tea room (conversational, not at anyone), differences of opinion with other staff (See my pages on Petty Gripes).

I believe that the nexus between my disability and the adverse actions is surprisingly simple and straightforward:

  • Council's own doctor flagged that my medical condition acted as a "backdrop in this situation" (See bottom of page 12, Ian Sale's Report).
  • Council asserted that my behaviours were unacceptable, though the Allegations of these behaviours were later shown by Council’s own lawyer to be largely false (See my pages on the Allegations).
  • Council interpreted my “unacceptable behaviours" as intentional (See Dockray's comments, clearly not understanding Asperger's), when in fact, they were textbook examples of ferocious rejection of Asperger’s Syndrome (See Table of my Behaviours and Bullying of Aspies, and Table demonstrating the link between the Allegations and Aspergers).
  • Council apparently reasoned that because my “unacceptable” behaviours were “intentional”, therefore I must be a bad person, and so I was treated accordingly in being denied pay, services, and even natural justice, and ultimately dismissed, despite being cleared of the charges.

It is further noteworthy that Council has inter-confused their disciplinary action and my Worker’s Compensation claim:

  • I was under Dr’s care and on medication for progressive depression for the 9 months leading up to the stand down; on 23rd July 2010, Council’s actions against me were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As a result of those injuries, I filed for workers compensation. This was about Depression, not Asperger’s.
  • I was stood down because of Council’s assertion that my behaviours are a danger to the workplace. These behaviours are about Asperger’s, not depression.
  • When I was exonerated of the bullying charges, my doctor wanted me to return to work as part of his rehabilitation strategy for combating the depression.
  • Council refused to allow me back, citing three things:
    • rejection that "... the health and welfare of our employees could be sufficiently protected from exacerbation were you to return to work in any capacity at or for QVMAG" (i.e., still asserting that my Asperger’s behaviours make me a bully),
    • "We are unable to accommodate Dr Atkinson's statement that your condition... could be sufficiently protected from exacerbation were you to return to work in any capacity at or for QVMAG" (i.e., I was unfit to return to work in their view), and
    • that I should be seeking income under workers compensation, which they had quite vociferously rejected and is tied up in appeal.

In other words, I was stood down as part of the disciplinary action, which in part caused the injury. On one side of their tongue they said I was not injured, and therefore rejected the workers compensation claim, but on the other side of their tongue they said I was unfit to return to work, and therefore kept me off pay for 16 weeks, all the while maintaining that I was a danger to the workplace, which was proven to be false in the first place. If this were a Monty Python skit, it would be hilarious.

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