In a decision lawyers describe as a warning to bullies, Qantas and one of its managers have been fined for mistreating an employee who complained about his conditions.
The aircraft engineer made a claim for entitlements arising from an overseas posting.
The company retaliated by suspending further postings.
The Federal Magistrates Court fined the company and a manager a total of $15,500.
And for the first time under the Fair Work Act, the Court found the employee was subjected to unlawful coercion to withdraw his complaint.
Brisbane-based aircraft engineer Luke Murray began his two-year battle with Qantas after he returned from working overseas.
"Luke went overseas to Tokyo to relieve for a couple of months for the engineer who's normally based up there," the Licensed Aircraft Engineers' Association's Steve Purvinas said.
"When he came back to Australia, he found out that he'd worked excess hours and more onerous shift work, and realised that in accordance with our enterprise agreement that he was entitled to some additional payments of about $10,000." But when he signalled he would apply to be paid, Mr Purvinas says the aircraft engineer was pressured not to, and then things got worse.
"Management had then turned around and told to all of his workmates that none of those guys would be able to take one of these overseas postings until such time that Luke actually withdrew his claim for payment," Mr Purvinas said.
"It's certainly something that our engineers look forward to.
"We're not like pilots or flight attendants who get to base themselves overseas and this went on for a few weeks where everyone was denied access to overseas postings until such time that we lodged an application with the Federal Court." In February 2011, the Federal Magistrates Court found Qantas broke the law by subjecting Mr Murray to adverse action when it suspended overseas postings.
It found a manager Peter Cawthorne also broke the Fair Work Act by trying to coerce Mr Murray not to exercise his workplace right, the first such finding under the Act.
Qantas appealed and lost and was fined $13,200 and Mr Cawthorne was fined $2,200.
'Strong message' Mr Murray and his union were represented by Giri Sivaraman, from law firm Maurice Blackburn, who says the fines send a warning against bullying.
"It's significant because it's rare to see, not just the company, but a senior manager of the company being fined," Mr Sivaraman said.
"This is a strong message to employers and to bullies in the workplace.
"The Fair Work Act, for the first time, created a specific protection for employees against victimisation for making a complaint in relation to their employment." Qantas declined to be interviewed.
"Qantas is a large employer and takes its responsibilities under the Fair Work Act seriously," it said in a statement.
"The Court has acknowledged the steps Qantas has taken to train its managers in relation to their responsibilities under the Act.
"Qantas will not be taking the matter any further."