Palmview man Kevin John is suing supermarket chain Aldi for damages after being sacked following a serious lower back injury sustained while unloading stock at the German Company’s Maroochydore store.
The 53-year-old grandfather, who has been unemployed for nine months since his dismissal, now risks losing his house and said his confidence and lifestyle has been shattered through his treatment by Aldi.
Mr John, who was employed as a Deputy Manager, sustained the back injury in March 2015 when he was allocated less than 150 minutes to singlehandedly unload six pallets of heavy perishable stock before the store opened at 8.30am.
Aldi’s policy states this task should take between 210 and 240 minutes, yet he received no assistance due to understaffing caused by a colleague calling in sick and not being replaced.
Since collapsing onto the floor with a disc and musculoskeletal injury to his lower back, Mr John has experienced years of physical pain which requires pain relief medication, ongoing massage and medical treatment.
Although he continued to work for Aldi for two years since the incident, Mr John was dismissed in March this year on account of his “inability to undertake the manual handling tasks expected of him in his employment”. Since then he has been diligently applying for sales roles and a range of other positions that don’t require heavy lifting.
“My life has been affected by this in a huge way. Aldi were well aware that I had just purchased my first house in February this year, yet sacked me a month later. We’ve now been told by our bank that our bond assistance is about to run out, so I’m really fearful that we will lose our home,” Mr John said.
“To make matters worse, my poor wife has had to put up with nine months of my anger, frustration, sleep disturbance and depression – but thankfully she has stuck by my side. I just can’t believe that the company could treat me so badly after I had given them my all, and more.”
Mr John said his workplace injury also meant he could no longer play golf, carry out regular jobs around the home such as lawn mowing, or lend financial assistance to his children and grandchildren.
Mr John’s lawyer, Travis Schultz, Principal of Travis Schultz Law, said all employers have a duty of care to minimise foreseeable risks of injury and maintain adequate staffing levels to ensure the system of work is not compromised.
“It’s one thing for employers to have training manuals, policies and procedures, but an employer is also obliged to make sure that their workers are given the time and tools to implement the system of work safely,” Mr Schultz said.
“Large employers are naturally concerned with finding efficiencies, cutting costs and extracting the best value from their human capital.
“However, they must not forget that the law requires an employer to balance its corporate interests with the rights of the worker, who must be able to go about their job without exposing themselves to a significant risk of injury.”