In the aftermath of International Womens’ Day, the history books were once again re-written when the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal classified a pregnant worker’s severe morning sickness as a disability under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic).
Ms Bevilacqua was a full time Sales Consultant at a Telstra store up until October 2013 when she tendered her letter of resignation following a refusal to reduce her work hours for ‘medical reasons.’ In February 2014, Ms Bevilacqua applied to the Tribunal seeking damages for loss of wages and for hurt and humiliation on the grounds that her managers had directly and indirectly discriminated against her on the basis her pregnancy, which included severe morning sickness (known as Hypermesis Gravidarum, but better known as the morning sickness the Duchess of Cambridge suffered from).
The decision is ground breaking due to the statement by Senior Member Proctor that, while a pregnant woman suffering morning sickness in ‘ordinary life’ would not constitute a disability, the symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum were so severe and debilitating as to fall within the definition of disability under the Act.
Senior Member Proctor’s findings highlight that severe morning sickness must be treated as seriously as other forms of physical disability in the workplace. Subsequently, employers are encouraged to review their policies and procedures to ensure reasonable adjustments are made for those suffering disabling morning sickness during their pregnancy.