Woman claims she was sacked for being Australian

by Chloe Taylor16 Jan 2015
An Australian woman took her employer to court over allegations that she was unfairly dismissed – for being Australian.

Catherine Petzel was hired by Redflex Traffic Systems, a Melbourne-based company, to sell its cameras in the US, and claimed that she was sacked on “unlawfully discriminatory grounds” in 2012.

It was alleged that Karen Finley, the chief executive of Redflex’s US operations, had commented on the work ethic and responsiveness of Australians in late 2011.

Petzel also claimed that Finley commented on how her Australian accent would be “received” in the American marketplace, questioning the “propriety of having an Australian in a sales position” due to competitors having attacked the company’s Aussie beginnings in the past.

According to Petzel’s lawyer, Finley “referred to the work ethic of Australians, implying that Australians did not work as hard as their counterparts in the United States”.

AAP reported that Finley is currently at the centre of allegations of mail fraud, bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, which has been detrimental to Redflex’s reputation in the US.

According to the company, Petzel’s employment was terminated in 2012 as a consequence of her poor sales performance. The court that heard the evidence agreed with the company, discarding the case in October last year when it found that there had been no evidence of discrimination. Redflex had also shown a documented history of Petzel’s performance, SmartCompany reported.

“In places like Australia, where there is adverse action law, it is much easier to mount a case on discrimination,” Andrew Douglas, partner at M+K Lawyers told SmartCompany.

However, he added that if similar litigation was to occur in Australia, a discrimination case would also be unlikely to “have legs” in Australian courts.

Petzel is reportedly continuing to pursue her claim. 


  • by this one 16/01/2015 12:57:37 PM

    The employment laws in AU are far stronger which although for the most part is positive, it also is a detriment to businesses. It's difficult to terminate subpar performers and when it's done the employer will inevitably receive some sort of wrongful termination letter/accusation. This ends up wasting quite a bit of time because let's be honest most people don't consider themselves to be 'bad' employees or believe they have an entitlement whether it be because the years or effort they've contributed.
    In the US, companies can offload employees more quickly which keeps the market competitive and employers can get the right talent. Obviously it would be good if there was a middle compromise between the two. Either way, it looks like this claim doesn't have legs and this person is just wasting time and money.

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