Werribee Wage Gap

7 May 2019

The University of Melbourne is currently facing legal proceedings brought by a previous employee, who Farrago will refer to as Lianne, on the grounds that her termination was on the basis of
her raising concerns over gender discrimination.

Lianne, previously employed as an animal coordinator, who managed the animals and farm at the University’s Werribee campus, is pursuing a claim in the Federal Court on the basis that she was made redundant as a result of exercising her workplace rights of requesting employment reclassification, requesting for a appeal, reaching out and to the Equal Opportunity Commission and then lodging a complaint.

In 2016, following discussions with a male colleague, Lianne realised that she was being paid less, even though her tasks were more complex than those of her counterparts. Upon closer inspection of the respective position descriptions of her male co-workers, there was no difference. At that stage she was managing more animals and had a broader portfolio.

Following this discovery, Lianne applied to faculty HR for a reclassification of her position, with the support of her supervisor, but she was denied. Subsequently, the University claimed that there was no process to appeal this ruling, but this was refuted by the NTEU. Lianne then requested this appeal process be initiated.

However, after months of delays, the meeting to discuss the appeal never eventuated.

While this was ongoing, according to Lianne, new managers came into the faculty as part of a restructure and made Lianne’s position redundant. The responsibilities of this position were later offered again, but split into two separate roles, with pay at the current, or a lower rate.

“[The University] knew that I was going for a reclassification for a pay increase and I would not be keen to apply for a lesser paying position,” said Lianne.

“My particular role has now been filled by two people. So, the one job I was doing, there’s now two people doing it,” she said.

When asked for a comment, the University provided a brief statement.

“The University is defending a general protection claim brought by a former employee. It would be inappropriate for the University to comment on this matter while it is before the Court.”

Should the action be in Lianne’s favour, she is seeking compensation for the salary difference back
to when the application for reclassification was made, financial compensation for pain and suffering, and acknowledgement that her original position should have been reclassified.

Currently, Lianne has being referred to the Federal Circuit Court for a hearing in May where she will provide evidence. There is no predicted date currently for a verdict. To this point, the University has not denied any of the evidence that Lianne has provided in her affidavit.

These proceedings are ongoing.

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