Let me tell you a story of how I got my role at one of Australia’s big four banks. Back when I was last job hunting, I had a few different leads come about from networking at meetup events and this bank wasn’t my first choice.
I had another Job Offer
My trip up to Newcastle to present at the Newcastle coders group had lead to job offer from a startup. The job offer was a mobile app team lead to a potential head of engineering upgrade career path. It was a super exciting offer and after chatting to my partner about it (they weren’t super happy) I signed the job offer.
Moving to Newcastle
I gave notice to my house mate, my previous contract and my community. I had arranged a few inspections and had put down a rental deposit on a new apartment up that way and had my heart set on living a 20 minute walk from walk, a 15 minute walk from the beach and a 5 minute walk from a brewery. All for less than $350 per week rent for a 2 bedroom apartment right in the centre of Newcastle. I had my priorities straight 😆 .
Then it all fell through
2 weeks before moving, the startup calls me up and cancels my employment contract. The level of transperancy I practice personally was a culture fit concern. Apparently someone on the board spoke to a previous colleague while doing “extra background checks” and my history of depression and performance came up. It’s not like I publicly speak and blog about these struggles. But they didn’t want to hire someone with this history. However the formal reason for cancelling the contract was for “culture fit” reasons.
This was over a phone conversation with one of the founders of the startup so the termination reason was never written down formally. I’m on good terms with the founder, they were annoyed with this decision but there wasn’t anything either of us could really do.
I think someone had spoken to a colleague who didn’t have the full context of why I left a previous role. The role didn’t suit my skills and expertise.
Where as from the outside, it looked like my broken leg blues was impacting my performance. Now it did impact my engagement but it wasn’t the reason for the departure. you can read more about that story here.
Mental Health Discrimination
If you feel like you’ve been unfairly dismissed or discriminated against, you have a few options. I had a chat to a fair work lawyer, they believed I had a valid case but because I hadn’t started employment there wasn’t a lot of financial reimbursement I could claim and their fee was $7000.
Claiming Unfair Dismissal
You can claim on your own with no lawyers fees but it’s harder if you chose to self represent. Also you have to let the fair work ombudsman know within 21 days of being dismissed. I let that time window pass. You can claim a few other ways too, one way has a 6 month time frame and another is within 12 months with the human rights commission. *
*Disclaimer; I might have some of these facts mixed up and this is not legal advice. Please reach out to a lawyer for further clarification
Opting out of unfair dismissal
I opted to not go down the unfair dismissal route. The startup had reimbursed me the direct expenses I had already paid with the move (my rental deposit and inspection fees), so there wasn’t much else I could claim except for the lapse in work/stress from moving because I now had to find a new job and move (my house mate had already found a new room mate and I couldn’t undo that). I didn’t feel all that hard done by and felt like they had already made fair reimbursements.
The only other reason I’d want to pursue the case is because I’d want people to acknowledge that mental health is important and it’s illegal to discriminate on this basis.
Rekindled previous leads
After the Newcastle job fell through, I rekindled all of the previous job leads I had. The original job at this bank I had interviewed with had been filled but there was another mobile QA engineer related role with another team that had just opened up. My details were passed along to someone else on the Talent Acquisition team. I did have to redo the 2 stage interview process again but it was a successful process this time round.
Moving and the new job
In the end, it all worked out for the better. I moved into my own 2 bedroom apartment in Crows Nest which had even cheaper rent than my last place (it wasn’t as cheap as Newcastle) and ended up with a job with this bank with a higher salary package compared to what the start up was offering. I’m still on a mobile team and I’m working on an interesting product. I have a financial update here if you are interested in reading more about my current state of affairs.
My partner is happier with this option and I can continue to do all of the awesome event based stuff I’ve been doing for Sydney Testers and YOW! Conference. I really dodged a bullet, I wouldn’t have wanted to work for a company where people didn’t like my transparency.
I’ve also written about fatness and bias before. This doesn’t constitute illegal discrimination under Australian law but it’s another story of how society can feel like it treats us unfairly.
I am so sorry to hear of this. It really disappoints me this startup discriminated on the basis of disclosing depression. It’s certainly not going to be a company where its employees will feel supported, then! Nothing like an “open door policy” eh?