Melbourne dental assistant who was fired during the Covid pandemic has been awarded $12,000

Melbourne dental assistant is awarded $12k after she was unfairly sacked during the Covid pandemic because she was forced to home school her children

  • Melbourne mother awarded $12,000 after being sacked during Covid pandemic 
  • Fiona Carpenter, was forced to homeschool her children after being let go 
  • After more than three years as casual dentist assistant, she was fired in 2020
  • Claimed she was discriminated because of her family responsibilities and injury 
  • Tribunal member agreed she was subjected to unlawful discrimination
  • Member Ian Scott said that this was due to Ms Carpenter’s parental status  

A Melbourne dental assistant, who was forced to homeschool her children after being sacked during the Covid pandemic, has been awarded $12,000.

Fiona Carpenter took her former employer Pearly Whites to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, claiming she was discriminated against because of her family responsibilities and a broken foot.

Tribunal member Ian Scott rejected her claim she was discriminated against based on her injury and sex, but agreed she was subjected to unlawful discrimination because of her parental status.

A Melbourne dental assistant, who was forced to homeschool her children after being sacked during the Covid pandemic, has been awarded $12,000 (pictured, a dentist at work)

Ms Carpenter was home-schooling her children because of COVID-19 restrictions in July 2020 when her boss, principal dentist Terry Wong, advised her of her termination.

She had been working as a casual dentist assistant at the practice for more than three years by that point.

Mr Wong told Ms Carpenter via email that her sacking was partly down to ‘the current challenging circumstances’ and the need for ‘more stability’ in the workplace.

Fiona Carpenter took her former employer Pearly Whites to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (pictured), claiming she was discriminated against because of her family responsibilities and a broken foot

Fiona Carpenter took her former employer Pearly Whites to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (pictured), claiming she was discriminated against because of her family responsibilities and a broken foot

He also pointed to the fact he hired a new permanent staff member, and told the tribunal he wanted to save on employment costs and let one of his casual workers go.

Mr Wong alleged Ms Carpenter had issues with other staff and said he considered each of his casual employees’ working relationship with the practice in deciding who to let go.

He rejected the suggestion his use of the word stability referred to Ms Carpenter’s availability; however, the tribunal member disagreed, saying it must have referred to him wanting staff to be more available as needed.

Mr Scott said he had to interpret Mr Wong’s use of ‘the current challenging circumstances’ in his email as referring to Ms Carpenter’s availability, or lack thereof.

Mr Wong alleged Ms Carpenter had issues with other staff and said he considered each of his casual employees' working relationship with the practice in deciding who to let go (pictured, dentist working on a patient)

Mr Wong alleged Ms Carpenter had issues with other staff and said he considered each of his casual employees’ working relationship with the practice in deciding who to let go (pictured, dentist working on a patient)

The tribunal member also pointed out that, while Mr Wong claimed he needed to save on employment costs, Ms Carpenter was a casual employee and only paid when she worked.

‘(Mr Wong) also gave evidence that he ‘didn’t believe the Government should pay someone who couldn’t work’ which is a reference to the Applicant being on JobKeeper payments,’ Mr Scott said.

The tribunal member found the true reason for Ms Carpenter’s dismissal must have been her family responsibilities and limited work availability.

As a result, he found the dental practice discriminated against Ms Carpenter because of her parental status.

Mr Wong also contravened the Equal Opportunity Act because he instructed and or authorised the practice to breach the legislation, Mr Scott said.

He ordered that the practice and Mr Wong pay Ms Carpenter a total $12,000 in damages.

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