Former Queensland state government minister Dr Chris Davis has won more than $1.45 million in an anti-discrimination claim.
He successfully argued that he was passed over for a senior medical officer job with the Metro North Hospital and Health Service because of his political beliefs and activities.
Dr Davis had been publicly critical of the state’s government and was sacked from his position as assistant health minister by the Premier in May 2014. He then resigned from Parliament 10 days later, causing a by-election to be held in his electorate the following month.
Three months later he applied for the position of Staff Specialist Geriatric Medicine Senior Medical Officer at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. The hospital only received two applications for the position, out of which Dr Davis was the only suitably qualified candidate.
The employer stalled interviewing Dr Davis and then advised him that a decision had been made to withdraw the position.
He was told in one email “As you probably know Metro North has recently changed its governance structure. We now have Clinical Services (Clinical Streams) that are across all of Metro North and they are no longer facility based. As result of the establishment of these Metro North Clinical Streams, all vacant positions are being re-evaluated and a decision has been made to withdraw the position of 0.5 FTE specialist in Geriatric Medicine at RBWH”.
However, the management’s internal emails presented as evidence at the trial revealed a different story.
One stated “I appreciate that you both are trying to find a sensible solution to this problem. So I write to Chris and say that in light of Clinical Streams being established across Metro North – all vacant positions are being re-evaluated and therefore this position has bene [sic] withdrawn”.
“I will have to also say that I am hoping I will be given the approval to readvertise in the New Year? He will realise that it is BS.”
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) member Clare Endicott found that the decision not to employ Dr Davis was “made within the decision-making authority” of the CEO and when she compared it to the outcome of a hypothetical application made by an applicant without Dr Davis’ political belief or activity, he was treated “less favourably in that process”.
“There was no innocent explanation given by [the CEO] or [board chairperson] for the decision that could satisfactorily negate that inference,” she said.
“In fact, the evidence reveals that no reason was given for the decision by the Chief Executive Officer at that time: not clinical streaming, not budgetary concerns, not a concern about his ‘fit’ for the role”.
QCAT said the job was his
“The tribunal finds that the wrongful failure to appoint [Dr Davis] to the position in September 2014 continues to cause [his] loss in that his future employment prospects have been detrimentally affected by the lengthy period of time out of public practice,” member Endicott said.
“I find that due to his age, his decreased contacts, and his decreased profile as a clinician, and to some extent post-polio effects developed while he was involved in pursuing his complaint, Dr Davis is unlikely to be able to return to work as a public hospital doctor and that he will have to endure a forced retirement from that line of work into the future.”
The state’s Metro North Hospital and Health Service was ordered to pay Dr Davis $1,450,771.69 within 30 days.