Mine worker's claim upheld by the Federal Court

A HAIL Creek coal mine worker victimised and stood down by Rio Tinto has had his claim upheld by the Federal Court after a two-year legal battle.

Michael Haylett injured his neck while driving a bulldozer in 2010; an injury Rio Tinto originally admitted was caused by the company's negligence. Mr Haylett continued to work at the mine for three years.

It was not until the Queensland District Court awarded Mr Haylett $630,000 in November 2013 as compensation for his injuries that Rio Tinto stood Mr Haylett down asserting that he did not hold a valid health assessment.

Nearly a year after Mr Haylett was stood down and after Mr Haylett successfully challenged the first health assessment in the Supreme Court, Rio Tinto requested a second health assessment. That assessment advised that he was "fit subject to restrictions".

However, the Federal Court heard that Rio Tinto management requested the doctor to change the assessment, a move Justice Reeves described as "disgraceful".

The CFMEU's Mining and Energy Division Queensland District President Steve Smyth hailed the case, run by the union and Hall Payne Lawyers, as a win for the little guy against a mining giant.

Federal Court Judge, Justice Reeves described the case as one with "remarkable history" characterised by the "resilience" of the worker and the "recalcitrance" of Rio Tinto.

In commenting about the purpose of the health assessment scheme Justice Reeves said in the hearing: "It's not something that the employer can use to dispose of workers because they're suffering from a disability. It's a process that requires assessment in the interests of the worker every five years to ensure that they're not being affected by working in a coal mine."


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