TOOWOOMBA Regional Council will have to dig into its pocket after underpaying an intellectually disabled dump worker who was oblivious to his unfair treatment.
Clynton Lawrance worked as a tip master in council dumps for 26 years, first under the now-amalgamated Rosalie Shire.
He worked for only scavenging rights, with no pay, for six years before moving onto a $20-a-day contract in 1998.
Similar conditions continued after Toowoomba Regional Council took over control of the region's dumps in 2008 - coinciding with new legislation meaning councils were treated as corporations and could be sued.
Mr Lawrance applied to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for compensation relating to his post-2008 employment.
He had no idea he had been unfairly treated until friends alerted him near the end of his career.
He worked 52 weeks a year, performing a range of duties including opening and closing the dump, fire control, directing the public, fire control and keeping the site tidy.
He also brought his dogs, without recompense from council, to protect the property on the site.
Commission deputy president Deirdre Swan acknowledged Mr Lawrance's poor numeracy and literacy skills limited his abilities to a degree, but not to the level council had implied.
The commission also found there was no law stopping Mr Lawrance from working more than 15 hours a week while receiving a disability support pension.
"It is not the case that Mr Lawrance's only work as a contractor involved opening and closing the dump," deputy president Ms Swan found.
"There was no evidence limiting his ability to those simple duties only, as has been suggested by the council in the substantive hearing.
"The evidence more than suggests that the council knew its property was well looked after by Mr Lawrance in all respects as it left him mostly unsupervised and in control of the property year after year.
"It is accepted, however, that he could not meet those requirements of an employee under the award."
Taking into account his intellectual disability and diabetes, deputy president Swan ordered council to pay Mr Lawrance 40% of what he would have earned if he was a regular employee, rather than a contractor who signed a legally dubious agreement.
She ordered council to determine the amount and submit it to Mr Lawrance's lawyers within a fortnight.