Legal sources tell us that recent Comcare legal case findings of perceived bullying causing actual harm, even when no bullying is proven, serve as important warnings for human resources managers in government agencies: review your occupational health and safety policies and practices, or pay a potentially steep price…
Comcare and psychological injuries – there is real hope!
Back in March, the full bench of the Federal Court handed down a judgment that many predicted would significantly affect federal government agencies — see Commonwealth Bank of Australia v Reeve
In a nutshell, the court awarded compensation to a bank manager who had tried to kill himself rather than face a meeting to discuss his branch’s performance.
The victim’s lawyers, Slater & Gordon, said at the time that employers often used the “administrative action” clause to escape liability for mental illnesses, without having tried to address the individual’s circumstances.
“What this will mean is we won’t see this broad-brush approach that employers and insurers have taken with respect to psychological conditions.”
Last month, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal handed down what is believed to be its first decision on a Comcare case that cites the Reeve judgement.
The tribunal ruled in favour of a psychologically injured EL2 officer from the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (see Fox v Comcare ). It found the officer had suffered depression and anxiety ‘‘as a result of perceived bullying and harassment’’, even though it also found that many of the actions perceived as harassment were operational or administrative in nature, and not related to the officer or her performance.
To those unfortunate victims of harassment and bullying under the Comcare Scheme, may we urge you to show your solicitor those successful landmark cases in the hope of hopes that it may encourage them to fight for your rights! It may also be worth contacting the lawyers who have represented the injured workers in the above cases
This article is dedicated to “Bernie” with love
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