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By Joe Hildebrand
The Daily Telegraph
May 12, 2009 12:01am

SYDNEY grandmother Patricia Pitfield was forced out of her job by retail giant Myer – because she could not do squats.

Bosses told the 61-year-old, who has been with the company for three decades, to stay home without pay after they ruled she was not physically fit enough for the clerical job she has done for the past 10 years.

Ms Pitfield was asked to squat in front of a human resources manager and attempt to climb steps without holding a railing. When she was unable to do so she was sent home.

Myer claims that without being able to do a full squat Ms Pitfield will be unable to open a bottom drawer or plug in a cash register and is therefore unfit for work – even though her doctor has declared her able.

Yet despite having no income, she cannot take unfair dismissal action or even claim Centrelink benefits because Myer has not fired her.

Nor can she pursue a worker’s compensation claim because her condition was not caused by her job.

She said she was first sent home in January after she produced a doctor’s report stating she was unable to fully squat because of a bad back and knee replacement surgery.

She had to use all her sick and annual leave which ran out after a few weeks and then was paid nothing.

The United Services Union took the company to the Industrial Relations Commission in early April but the commission was unable to rule her dismissal had been unfair as she had not actually been fired.

During the conciliation process Myer said it would re-employ Ms Pitfield, yet when she went to work three weeks ago a human resources officer asked her to squat while keeping her back straight. She protested she could not do that, only a “semi-squat”.

“As soon as I went back in they made me do the safe workplace practices test (a written test for which she got a perfect score) and they said to do this squatting,” she said.

“The same day they sent me home after I failed the test. They said, ‘You’re still employed but we’ve got no work for you.’ They said, ‘We’re not paying you’.”

Ms Pitfield said the process was degrading.

The USU, which branded the store’s actions “barbaric”, is now considering legal action including suing for lost wages and going to the Anti-Discrimination Board.

Myer confirmed she wasn’t allowed to work due to health issues and backed its move not to pay her when she was away.

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25465168-5012426,00.html

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