Published: 2 Sep 2016
The Federal Court has ordered more than $1,272,109 in damages and compensation, and $24,600 more in interest payments, be paid to a Hail Creek coalminer victimised and stood down by Rio Tinto, an amount nearly unprecedented in workplace disputes.
Michael Haylett injured his neck while driving a bulldozer in 2010; an injury that Rio Tinto admitted was caused by the company’s negligence.
Mr Haylett continued to work at the mine for three years, and it was not until the Queensland District Court awarded him $630,000 in November 2013 as compensation for his injuries did Rio Tinto stand down Mr Haylett.
The case, run by the CFMEU and Hall Payne Lawyers, was described by the unions Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President, Stephen Smyth, as a David and Goliath battle against a mining giant.
“This has been a long and hard fought case. Michael Haylett is finally getting justice after three years of fighting one of the worlds biggest mining companies for his unfair sacking,” Mr Smyth said.
“While the payment of $1.3 million in damages and back pay will go some way to compensating Mr Haylett for the pain, suffering, and poor treatment he’s endured over the years, it shouldn’t have to be necessary.
“This was a vendetta against Michael Haylett that Rio Tinto has been running for years. The way the company acted in this matter, beginning with the heavy-handed and illegal sacking of a worker, to ignoring a Supreme Court order, is completely unacceptable and the additional penalty of $50,000 ordered against them reflects just how appalling the treatment was.
“Mr Haylett was injured at work, and then sacked through no fault of his own – these three years of legal proceedings have been difficult for Michael, but today is his victory. Finally, Rio Tinto will be held to account for their behaviour.”
Mr Smyth said that the case showed that workers aren’t alone and can stand up to improper and illegal treatment in the workplace.
“The Federal Court found that Rio Tinto’s decision to stand down Mr Haylett was done in retaliation for him winning his damages claim, and was in breach of the Fair Work Act. Justice Reeves highlighted the lack of remorse that the company had for their actions as a major factor in his decision,” Mr Smyth said.
Solicitors from Hall Payne Lawyers said that they had seldom seen worse treatment of an employee by a company, with Rio Tinto’s defiance of Supreme Court orders and arrogance nearly unprecedented.