Workplace bullying and the strategies employed to deny stress claim payouts

We’ve written it countless times,  stress claims are one of the most difficult areas for WorkCover claims. Even though the workcover legislation provides that if your stress condition is caused or aggravated by work you should be provided with workers comp, insurers and employers will often misuse certain exceptions within the legislation to reject work related stress claims. These exceptions revolve around the “reasonable (management) action” taken in “a reasonable manner”.

Our co-author Trinny recently stumbled upon a story posted on the Workplace Bully and Corruption Whistleblower blog, by a South Australia based injured worker explaining how his stress claim became his worst unsuspected nightmare. The injured workers also writes that “It was as if his employer was being guided by some secret document. A ‘How to avoid stress claims’ type document”, and that such document really exists!

Workplace bullying and the strategies employed to deny stress claim payouts

Workplace Bullying: Do employers have strategies to avoid stress claim payouts?

By Rob McKibbin. Whistleblower in the South Australian Government since March of 2000

You feel you have no option other than the Workcover option. You have fought the workplace bully for what seems like an eternity. However, the problem remains. And, you get sicker with each passing day.

Whatever management says it is doing, is not working. Your doctor pulls the plug. Anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder…irrespective of the term, you are sick.

It was a gut-wrenching two years and seven months from my first complaint to my stress claim. Then I persisted with my war for a further six years before I felt compelled to resign.

As in my case, here in South Australia, the process begins with a Workcover Prescribed Medical Certificate (PMC) from a General Practitioner. This is what you attach to your Workcover Claim Form.

BOTH documents will detail your medical condition. Both will detail THE ALLEGED CAUSE.

And that, my friends, is when your worst unsuspected nightmare goes supersonic.

Put yourself on the management throne. By signing off on the Claim, legitimacy attaches to your declaration that your illness is directly linked to workplace bullying.

And if all goes your way – you actually survive – the only thing you have left to prove, in any legal arena, is that management sat back on its arse, as in my case, doing what it is very good at…nothing!

In my old workplace, the bully (now proven to have been a bully by a subsequent Disciplinary Inquiry) was one-down from the CEO. The Big Kahuna Number Two, the self-appointed deity who signed-off on EVERYTHING!

I was buggered, right from the get-go. It was like soliciting Caesar for a life membership of the RSPCA.

That sign-off does not happen overnight, or in the week after, or in the month after, or………

The South Australian Public Service AND the inept State Government created my experiences. The department I toiled for, the Office of the Public Trustee, an agency under the Attorney-General’s Department umbrella, was and still is a self-insured entity.

The only good thing I have to say about the self-insured position, is that I avoided being managed by one of those independent, profit-driven insurance companies. From all accounts, that was a godsend, in relative terms anyway.

In my case, I was sent to a Psychiatrist of my employer’s choosing. Moreover, the report from that employer-paid-for expert was a medico-legal report. It was NOT a medical report. There is a difference. And, if you ever wind up in a witness box, you will realise the report was not obtained to help you, the injured worker.

N.B. You have the right to obtain a report from a specialist of your choosing.

Now, getting back to my legitimacy attachment comment. Even though co-workers were managing me, the process was, for the sake of better words, both backbreaking and stress making.

It was as though that much-needed sign-off was as elusive as fluffy ALF returning from Melmac looking for another garage to crash through.

It was as if my employer was being guided by some secret document. A ‘How to avoid stress claims’ type document.

Do such documents exist? HELL YEAH!

Not for the first time, I received one such document yesterday. Prepared by a Law Firm for a government agency. It needs to be read a few times in order to transform your mindset from that of an injured worker to that of a bushwhacker.

When I first read it, I could not quite get my mentally damaged psyche around it. I was looking for the benevolent bits. I was assuming the needs of the employee were a consideration on some level, any level.

Then it struck me. The guide I was reading has nothing to do with the wellbeing and the interests of the worker. The guide is the 2011 version of the 15th century Malleus Maleficarum, the Witch Hunter’s Bible.

Because, I’ll tell ya, you feel like you’re being led to the bloody stake as you wind your way through the sea  of constantly popping-up obstacles on a ‘Talking Heads’ road to nowhere.

After my employer received the first psychiatric report, management was pissed. Human Resources, at the request of Big Kahuna Number Two, yep, the bully himself, penned a response letter asking the Psychiatrist to RECONSIDER his findings!

I HAVE THAT LETTER. Yep, my employer, a government agency within the Department of JUSTICE!!!

The Psychiatrist said NO!

I have that response, and it sure does make interesting reading. I got the impression Sigismund ‘Sigmund’ Schlomo Freud was wondering what planet he was communicating with.

Now folks, back to the nefarious employer Stress Claim Avoidance Manuals (SCAM) I mentioned.

Here are some tantalising extracts from a few of the (employer stress claim avoidance manuals) documents in my possession:
  • ‘…obtain the necessary information if you later want to claim an exemption from the statutory requirement to provide ‘suitable employment to the worker…’
  • ‘…obtain the necessary information required to dismiss the worker for incapacity in a legally effective manner…’
  • ‘…Dismissal by reason of disability is not unlawful if the worker is unable to perform their duties due to their disability…’And,
  • ‘…if a private sector company and a Government department were found to have breached their safety duty for the same issue, the private company could be fined or prosecuted but the government department would be issued with a Notice of Non Compliance…

I think it necessary to say that I do not believe all employers behave nefariously. I have knowledge of an  employer that dealt with the bullying problem decisively, and assisted the worker towards a full recovery.

Well…I know of one case.

Over the past few weeks, I have helped some people, people targeted by workplace bullies, people who are sitting at the crossroads, the same t-junction I found myself back in late-2002.

I turned right and filed a stress claim. I could have turned left, walked, and saved myself years of grief.

You are not the only one who will suffer. Factor in your family.

My best word of advice? HEALTH! Do not take on a system that is hell bent on self-preservation. Do not hop on that white horse if you know your health is on wobbly legs. It will not be worth it. Walk away. They are not worth it.

And, do yourself a huge favour. Google the word whistleblower. I doubt you will find a whistleblower who still has employment, who still has sanity, and who still has the life that was enjoyed before taking on the devil.

It is a cold world my friend. Take on bullying and the system, and it becomes a lonely world. Think carefully.

But…..would I do it again? HELL YEAH!

[Original source:]


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