“I have wanted to tell this story for a long time, and having now pretty much explored every legal avenue I am more confident in doing so”, writes an injured worker who experienced sickening bullying in his workplace….
Another Horror Story – Bullying at a large employer and the corruption of a claims system
I worked in a specialist role with a large employer in a regional area.
In 2009, I informed my employer that I was being bullied by my manager.
They showed great concern, promising to investigate and offered me employer sponsored counselling. While everyone was entitled to three sessions with a psychologist, they would pay for as many as I needed.
As I had made a complaint about my manager, he decided to put me on a “performance management” program formalising the bulling in the process.
He “demoted” me by making me work well below my skillet, took away all seniority and prevented me from attending team bonding and training events. Again, I was advised that this was nothing to do with a bullying complaint, it was simply my manager choosing to manage me as he saw fit.
After 9 months of being demoralised to the point of injury, I lodged a WorkSafe claim in mid 2010. I was unable to work. This was rejected by the agent.
The manager of the WorkSafe office that rejected my claim was the husband of the human resources employee who had determined that I was not being bullied. Just a little conflict of interest, right? Don’t worry, it gets worse.
After the rejection of my claim, I lodged and waited five months for a conciliation hearing. At the hearing, the documentation relied on to reject my claim was investigated.
This meant that I was now being paid, and I was to be provided with a return to work programme. The direction notice was not challenged in the magistrates court as required to have this overturned.
6 weeks after acceptance of the claim by the ACCS, I was invited to attend a “rehabilitation meeting”. This included a cast of many, including for some reason the manager of the local insurance agent’s office. During the meeting, he big noted himself by stating that whilst the claim was accepted and they did not dispute that, he felt that the ACCS had made an error and as such while I may have been entitled to payment when the order was made he determined that this was no longer the case.[WTF, we say!]
The circumstances of my claim had not changed. Not a single new medical report had been sought.
The modification, for the record, was to ensure I was not placed in a position where my bullying manager could target me. The return to work plan was rejected by treating medical practitioners as being unsuitable (a good rehab consultant!). My employer advised that they had spoken to my manager (the one who had caused the injury!) and he had informed them I was unskilled (despite being in a senior position and the highest paid member of the team) and therefore unable to perform any other function.
Back to the ACCS again to have the “termination” heard.
This time the officer was concerned at the enormity of issuing a direction, so the matter went to court.
Unfortunately the obligation period on my employer had continued the whole time I was waiting for court and had now expired.
There are many, many more dirty horrible details to this scenario, but what is ultimately the worst one is this. My employer advertised for a new head of Health and Safety a couple of weeks after my original claim was directed to be paid by the ACCS.
I can’t help thinking that this is not how claims are supposed to progress? WorkSafe for their part spent months looking into how they could make my employer accountable, including issuing compliance notices (which the manager of the WorkSafe agent’s officed helped them overturn on a technicality).
Multiple inspections were arranged of my employer.
Ultimately as they had done nothing wrong (when an entitlement is “terminated” by the agent, the employer obligations legally cease), no case could be made against them.
As though it was sad but unavoidable. I have now been left with a general attitude by the bureaucrats of “we paid you and offered rehabilitation” as though that is enough.
This would have prevented me having to sell my house, take my kids out of school, and relocate to a city in the hope I may one day find work. I can only worked limited hours (thus denying me compensation past the 130 weeks) so finding work is proving a challenge at best, especially as I sill suffer from severe anxiety and depression.
We can not thank you enough, M, for sharing your story. It is stories like this that desperately need public and media attention, because this is the sad REALITY for so many injured workers on our so called workcover system, which we prefer to call “workcover terrorism”. Your experience is a classic example of how a bully can destroy a life and how our workcover system adds insult to injury.
[post dictated by workcovervictim and manually entered on behalf of workcovervictim]