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Linda Weier was sacked from Spotless after cancer operation

By Nicole Cox
The Sunday Times
June 25, 2011 8:00PM

A BREAST cancer survivor has been sacked from her cleaning job after asking to go on light duties while she recovers from surgery.

Linda Weier said she had been left on the scrapheap after being fired by Spotless from her cleaning supervisor job at David Jones’ Claremont and Perth city stores this month.

Ms Weier was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in March 2009 and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy before returning to work in October that year.

She said, despite doctors restricting her to just several hours of light duties a week after breast reconstruction surgery, she was put under pressure to work more hours including heavy lifting.

But this caused the stitches in her chest wound to burst open on three separate occasions between March 2010 and February this year.

Now, she has referred the case to her union, United Voice, which is pursuing a worker’s compensation claim and recovery of lost earnings.

“It seems they’re just worrying about their own company and their profits without any care about their employees at all,” Ms Weier told The Sunday Times.

“I was told to take it easy because I had just had the reconstruction where they take the muscles from your back to the front so that needed time to heal. I was told to do light duties and just gradually build up the hours as I recovered.”

Ms Weier said she was relegated to toilet and cardboard crushing duties and forced to move bales of cardboard weighing about 150kg.

“I couldn’t keep up with the baling because I didn’t have the strength I normally did,” she said. “It’s pretty heavy work, even the guys there struggled.

“Moving the cardboard and lifting the baler ripped all my internal stitches down the middle so I had a bullfrog chest.

“I went in for surgery and time off to recover but when I came back to work, they put me back on toilets and the baling and I ripped it again through the heavy lifting.”

She suffered a third tear to the wound in February this year and took time off for more surgery.

Ms Weier said she had tried to make contact with her manager in the days before she was due to return to work after her latest bout of surgery but calls and emails went unanswered.

The day before she was due to start back, she received a letter advising she had been laid off.

In the letter, dated June 2, WA general manager for operations Brad Walther wrote: “Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate the current work restrictions that you advised us of … In order to return to work you will need to provide us with a medical certificate clearing you for full duties with no restrictions.”

United Voice WA branch secretary Dave Kelly said the company’s behaviour and lack of support to a recovering cancer victim beggared belief and the union would lobby for Ms Weier’s return to work and recovery of lost earnings.

“To have to deal with the cancer in the first place is obviously bad enough, but from what we understand Spotless have not dealt with this in the professional way they should have,” Mr Kelly said.

“It seems to us that there has been some undue pressure for her to come back to work earlier than she should have. The implication that if she didn’t come back to work her job wouldn’t be there seems to us to be particularly harsh.

“Spotless have told us that they are not going to offer her any further work, so they are essentially washing their hands of her case, until she is 100 per cent fit.

“If someone has a work-related injury, you can’t terminate their employment and that’s effectively what they’ve done so we will try and enforce Spotless’s obligation to provide her with further work.”

A Spotless spokeswoman said she could not comment publicly on Ms Weier’s case for privacy reasons.

“In strict observance with the privacy guidelines and privacy laws, we can’t comment on employee matters,” she said. “The privacy laws strictly prohibit companies from discussing individual personal matters.”

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