Ten thousand disabled workers who were underpaid at government-funded workshops across the country will be able to claim compensation from the Commonwealth, following a Federal Court ruling.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn led a representative class action, after the productivity tool used to determine what wages employees at Australian Disability Enterprises received was found to be discriminatory.
Lead plantiff in case Tyson Duval-Comrie said the use of the Federal Government's Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) discriminated against people with intellectual disabilities.
"It is a very good decision. I'm very happy" he said outside court.
Mr Duval-Comrie's father Bruce Comrie said he was pleased his son would now be paid what he deserved.
"For this decision just to happen before Christmas, I think it puts everyone to rest," he said.
"Tyson is going to received what he's entitled to. Tyson can look forward to his future and getting his appropriate pay.
"We will just be able to rest easy now."
Decade-long battle for compensation
Maurice Blackburn said a 2012 case that was brought against the Commonwealth by two individual workers with intellectual disabilities was the catalyst for the class action.
In that case, the full Federal Court decided for the first time that using BSWAT to set the wages of intellectually disabled workers was discriminatory and contravened the Act.
While the High Court refused the Commonwealth's application for special leave to appeal in May 2013, workers with intellectual disabilities in Australian Disability Enterprises continued to be paid under BSWAT and the Commonwealth refused to compensate them for their underpayment.
Partner at Maurice Blackburn Josh Bornstein said it was a historic day.
"It brings to end a David and Goliath battle. A settlement in excess of $100 million. It's been a long running battle in the courts — it started in tribunals 10 years ago," he said.
"We will no longer have workers with intellectual disabilities working under the radar. It's a huge advance in wage policy for workers in Australian Disability Enterprises."
Maurice Blackburn said ADEs would not shut as a result of the decision because the Commonwealth is responsible for payouts.
Disability workers, the National Disability Service and lawyers have been working to come up with a new tool through a Fair Work Commission process but so far there has been little progress.
Employees who worked at ADE from July 2004 will be eligible for the pay-out and must register with the Department of Social Services by the end of April.
- $100 million payday for $1-an-hour staff with disabilities
- Disabled employees still offered $2.79 an hour
- Intellectually disabled workers call for boost to wages
- Fears thousands with disability could lose employment
- Law firm Maurice Blackburn slams Government's one-off payment offer
- Underpaid disabled workers to be offered one-off payment