Former employee’s court case against DAN over chronic pain dismissed

A Federal Court case filed by Lien Tran against her former employer, the Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), was dismissed yesterday with the consent of both parties.

The general protections claim centred on 44 complaints she allegedly made, primarily regarding hand, finger, and back pain due to her office chair, work station, and workload. According to court documents filed by Tran, this was a physical disability, and her complaints relating to it led to her dismissal.

Tran says she made 44 complaints from 2014 to 2016, but DAN has no records of them

In its defence, DAN said it does not have any records of Tran making a single complaint or inquiry during her employment. It acknowledged that Tran, a former accounts officer, experienced pain, but that those she allegedly complained to were colleagues who had no authority to take any action. The holding group denied the vast majority of the allegations.

DAN was particularly scathing of Tran’s third complaint, made to the IT department about her hands and fingers being sore. The holding group said the complaint is “unparticularised, embarrassing and liable to be struck out”.

The claim was originally filed in 2016, but stretched out after dispute resolution failed in 2017.

In October 2014, after six complaints, Tran said she requested to work from home two days a week due to pain caused by her work station. That request increased to three days a week later that same month, after her pain allegedly required three chiropractic treatments each week. Five days later, she requested to work from home full time, since “her pain was considerably worse when working at her work station”.

In December, Tran requested an ergonomic specialist come to the DAN offices to assess her work station and make recommendations. DAN said this assessment was completed in January, and its recommendations implemented.

Tran said she made additional complaints over the course of a year and a half to DAN’s IT department that “her computer was shutting down and installing updates so often, wasting time and causing her stress and anxiety”. Court documents also state she made a complaint that telephone calls and emails from a colleague were causing her stress, and “the additional job of finding and printing correspondence was time consuming and causing her further stress”.

Colleagues’ alleged underperformance was also stressful, said Tran, and subject to complaints.

Tran said she continued to make complaints detailing the deterioration of her back and health and protested that a proposed remuneration increase was too low because it did not reflect her workload, which “caused stress and aggravated her back condition”. That condition caused her to have to “stretch her back approximately every five minutes causing her embarrassment in the open plan office”. She added that she complained in late 2015 that she had “spent a lot of money obtaining treatment for chronic pain”.

The 44 complaints listed by Tran, made from 2014 to 2016, also included allegations that her managers were bullying her, she did not have a position description, she did not have access to the intranet system, she was left out of staff and development correspondence, her performance review took a long time to complete without the opportunity to reassess her salary, she was not invited to billings meetings, and she felt pressured to take annual leave around Australia Day. According to DAN, staff were not pressured to take leave, but were sent an email that said DAN “encourage[d] you all to considered taking the Monday (25/01) as an Annual Leave Day … and would be a great chance for you to all enjoy a long weekend.”

Tran’s role was made redundant in September 2015, and she was redeployed to a transitional role. Almost a year later, she was informed that the transitional role had also been made redundant. Tran argued that these redundancies were discrimination, a form of adverse action taken against her in response to her complaints, but, in its defence, DAN rebuked that, stating that the redundancies were a direct result of a restructure of its finance team.

According to the court documents, Tran’s loss included her ongoing loss of income, and humiliation, pain and suffering. DAN denied that she was entitled to any relief from the court.

A number of people were subpoenaed to give evidence in the case, including DAN’s former chief financial officer Dion Cust, but these subpoenas were revoked yesterday with the case’s dismissal. Those subpoenaed are due to be told of the case’s dismissal by midday today.

Mumbrella has approached DAN for comment.


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