Dying mum’s ‘insult’ in fight for $30k payout
A DYING woman waiting to be paid entitlements from her former employer, Gold Coast clothing giant BLK, has been forced to provide further proof she is terminally ill.
Sandra Brant, who has stage-four bowel cancer, is seeking almost $30,000 in long-service leave from the company, which is embroiled in several court actions, including one involving Mrs Brant's sister-in-law, former Hi-5 entertainer Lauren Brant.
Other former employees have also engaged legal representatives, while a lucrative naming rights contract with a Gold Coast performance centre favoured by international sporting teams has collapsed just months into a reported six-year deal.
Two weeks after reporting Mrs Brant's tragic battle with the multimillion-dollar business empire, The Sunday Mail can now reveal that lawyers for BLK have since asked officers from Industrial Relations Queensland for additional evidence of her condition.
BLK has acknowledged asking for more material, saying in a statement it had anticipated something more substantial than the brief medical certificate provided.
Mrs Brant, the wife of former BLK chief executive Tyron Brant, said she was disgusted by the company's actions.
"Everyone at BLK knew what I was going through," she said.
"I'm devastated that it has come to this.
"It just creates extra anxiety and pressure for my family on top of what we are already going through.
Mrs Brant, who has hired lawyers and lodged complaints with Fair Work and Industrial Relations Queensland, was also seeking over $12,000 in annual leave entitlements, which were paid by the company last week - the day after a Sunday Mail story appeared.
The nature of Mrs Brant's illness is significant to the case of long-service leave because she would only be entitled to pro-rata payments if her resignation was caused by health issues.
In a statement, a spokesman for BLK's legal representatives said the company was entitled to ask for something more substantial than a brief medical certificate.
"BLK is sorry to hear that Mrs Brant may again be experiencing ill health, and it expects to pay Mrs Brant's long service leave claim on compassionate grounds if nothing else, assuming it receives satisfactory evidence," the statement said.
"BLK does not consider it unreasonable, however, to seek something more than the one-sentence medical certificate to confirm Mrs Brant's health situation before paying her claim."
The medical certificate reports Mrs Brant has metastatic bowel cancer, is undergoing chemotherapy and will be unfit for work until at least the end of the year.
Mrs Brant's lawyer Gail Allison, from Pathway Legal, who is also representing other former employees in disputes with BLK, said she had never witnessed such callous behaviour.
"I am astonished at the response and request by BLK's lawyers for further evidence to prove Sandra's terminal diagnosis, in addition to the complete lack of any empathy," she said.
BLK is also involved in several court actions against Mrs Brant's husband, who left the company in March after three years as CEO and more than 20 years as an employee.
In the statement, the spokesman for BLK said the "unusual situation" of the actions against Mr Brant had "resulted in payment of annual leave entitlements to Mrs Brant being delayed in comparison to BLK's normal process for departing employees".
In an unrelated case which has been lodged with Southport Magistrates Court, Gold Coast business Official Digital Printing Solutions, which lists children's entertainment personality Lauren Brant as trustee, is seeking almost $40,000 for services and alleged debts which have not been repaid. BLK said it would respond to the claims "in due course as part of the normal court process".
It is not just the Brant family at loggerheads with BLK.
The company's former chief financial officer has also filed an action in the Federal Circuit Court alleging more than $60,000 in unpaid entitlements, while at least one other former employee has engaged lawyers over alleged debts.
A seven-figure naming rights contract with the Gold Coast Performance Centre sports hub has also collapsed just months after it was signed. BLK signage has recently been removed from the outside of the centre.
Neither BLK nor Education Queensland, which manages the Gold Coast Performance Centre, would comment on the collapse of the naming rights arrangement.
It comes as former CFO Michael Robinson launches a Federal Court claim for more than $62,000 in alleged unpaid entitlements.
BLK intends to file a defence and counterclaim "in due course".
Several other court actions involving BLK have been lodged in recent months in a number of different jurisdictions.
Once billed as one of Queensland's greatest rags-to-riches success stories, BLK was started by Brant family patriarch Kim Brant in 1999.
Originally known as KooGa, BLK grew from a Helensvale shed to become the official clothing manufacturer of sports teams throughout Australia and around the world, cutting sponsorship deals with the Wallabies, international Pacific island rugby teams, almost a dozen NRL and AFL clubs and football teams across Europe and North America.
After hitting turbulence in 2016, BLK was placed into receivership before being bought out by a consortium.
The company rebounded to enjoy renewed commercial success and still counts the Queensland Firebirds, Melbourne Rebels, Athletics Australia and a host of international football teams among its clients.