Another brave injured worker recently and very kindly shared his horrendous-almost-unbelievable- story with us, highlighting the importance of knowing your rights when it comes to all things workcover. That you need to stand up for yourself, learn to say “no”, not be intimidated, pressurized, bullied or threatened, whether by your boss, case manager, rehabber or even doctor. Most importantly, when you suffer a workplace injury, you really need to seek help and advice sooner rather than later and look after yourself in the first place, because nobody else will.
The moral of this injured worker’s story is:Get help and advice sooner rather than later and look after yourself because nobody else will
Were we not this familiar with the extremely adversarial work-over, we would hardly believe the following story. Unfortunately we have experienced ourselves, to various degrees, similar situations during the course of our own workplace injuries, and countless other injured workers have repeatedly shared and voiced similar experiences, of which the most common theme is the angst, fear, threat and extreme pressure put on the bewildered injured worker by their employer, case manager and/or rehabber.
Many of us are, or have been bullied and threatened into submission or ‘compliance’, many of us are/have been petrified by our boss or case manager or rehabber to our own terrible detriment. I -for one- was so scared of my boss and my case manager that I continued work full time (in extreme pain and with a shoulder dangling out of its socket) even though my workcover certificate(s) stated me totally unfit for all work! I was too scared, too naive and didn’t know that I had rights as a human injured being! Needless to say that my injury just got worse and worse to the point where it’s irreparable and where I will shortly loose my entire dominant shoulder. How many more injured workers are being crippled for life because they don’t know their rights? Because they fear reprisals? Fear their pathetic bosses? Are petrified from a miserably inadequate, uneducated
case manager clerk?
The injured worker’s almost unbelievable story
I was a permanent sub-contract carpenter for a small builder, I was told to form my own company in order to keep working for him. I did what I was told and my accountant set one up for me including a worksafe policy.
One day, the boss demanded that I come to his house a help him carry steel. During that day, my back became really sore and I complained. He told me to shut the f up and carry. I told him that my legs were going but he just told me to stop whining. When the day was done, he told me to F off back to the other job and finish it.
Three weeks later, I was working on another job and was on my hands and knees. I pulled on a piece of timber, got a twinge between my shoulder blades, fell forward onto my face and then my lower back went pop. I was in agony and thought about calling an ambulance, but I was a loyal worker who thought about the boss and about keeping my job. Also the I incident that led to my injury seemed freakish which caused me to think that it couldn’t be that serious.
I was worried about my job and managed to secure the site before climbing into the car and drove side saddled to the bosses house to report the injury. I tried to tell him what happened and did a drawing for him on a piece of timber but he threatened my job again and ridiculed me. I was ashamed and fearful of losing my job and felt ridiculous. He checked my car to make sure that I hadn’t had a car accident.
The next day, I couldn’t walk properly and my legs threatened to give way under me, I went to the doctor and had a CT scan. Found that I had two prolapsed discs. I didn’t understand how bad it was, but was relieved that it was a diagnosis and thought that it would heal quickly. The boss had yelled at me when I told him that I couldn’t make it in that day and he threatened my job again. I didn’t get the scan done on my mid back, because I was already panicked about the boss and his angry threats. The doctor checked me for bruises because he thought it sounded more like a car accident too.
I decided that I had to make a workcover claim and…
He added that if I mentioned that it happened on one of his jobs or even mentioned the steel at his house, he would say that he had never met me or even heard of me. He then said that I would have an f ed back, no job and possibly worse. I had left my melways at the job, so I didn’t know the address and the boss wouldn’t give it to me. I said that I had been a loyal worker to him for 4 years, why would he do that to me? He didn’t answer.
I lodged the claim as a worker directly with my insurance co, so that he couldn’t stop it like he had threatened to. I did my best to not dob him in. The insurance co rang him to confirm the details and the boss said that he had seen me on the day and I seemed fine, but I had done some work for him.
The insurance co rang me and asked if I was under duress, based on my claim form. I said no, because I was worried about what would happen with the already very angry and self protective boss.
Once the claim was lodged, I had an IME and was interviewed by an inspector who refused to properly take my statement, pulled me around physically and threatened to instigate legal action if I didn’t sign the statement. There was an error on the part of my doctor in regard to the date of injury. And the boss had said that it was dodgy, so my claim was red flagged. He demanded that I remove my top so that he could check me for bruises.
The boss said that he didn’t want me back at all unless I was fixed. I was off work for 6 months and had not returned before I started a rehab program with a physio. At around the same time I was directed to select an occupational rehab provider.
At the 9 month stage, I was worn down. The boss maintained that he didn’t want me back unless I was fixed. I maintained that I was still improving but not fixed. The physio kept harassing me about returning to work and said that I was messing up his stats. I kept saying that I was a lot better, but the job that I was going back to was far more demanding than he realised and there was no such thing as light duties on the job site. He told me that I had the option of surgery or return to work. The OR case manger stayed in contact with him and she would ring me and yell at me for not returning to work yet. She said that the physio had told her that I was fixed.
I finally rang her to ask about a return to work plan and suggested two days per week as a starter. I hoped that they were right and I was wrong about my condition but I didn’t think so. I said that I would call the boss to work out light duties and she said that I was forbidden to contact my own boss and that she would call him.
Long story, but she told the boss that I was fixed, he told her that he only wanted me back if I was fixed. Together they worked out a return to work plan that had me back on full duties within 5 weeks. I got the plan through and saw how steep it was. I rang the OR case manager and told her that it was not what we had spoken about and the duties listed were in fact not light duties at all.
I rang the boss and tried to tell him that I could do some things but I was nowhere near fixed. He said that X said I was, and he had signed and returned his copy because he didn’t want a drawn out return to work plan and he wasn’t going to be a baby sitter.
I spoke to X again and told her that the plan was too strong and the duties listed were not light duties at all. She told me that I was obliged to follow the plan and that I didn’t have any choice in the matter. She threatened me again and again. I asked if I should be seeing a lawyer? She threatened me again and said that I had 24 hours to sign and return the plan or I knew what was coming. I was fearful for my own safety and my partners, so I went to the doctor and told him about it. He barely looked at the plan, said that it looked reasonable, signed it and told me to go. He added that I had to get back to work sometime.
Before I returned the signed plan, I saw my physio one more time and showed it to him. He said that it was way too fast and heavy. I was angry and said that it was him that had told X that I was fixed. He asked if I had signed it and if my doctor had signed it? I said yes to both. He then said that it was too late then and I had to do it now and had no choice. He then mentioned more restrictions that I was expected to comply with, but those same restrictions would stop me from doing the tasks that were on the plan that I was legally obliged to perform. I only got to see the top two lines of those restrictions before we had an argument and he threw them in the bin, refused to give them to me and told me to leave.
I felt betrayed by all of them but returned to work as I was supposed to and the first task that I was given, required that I climb a step ladder. I was slow and in so much pain, but felt compelled to comply. I only understood later why the boss would give me tasks and then leave the room before I started. He was angry about the other restrictions and reminded me that he had said to come back only if I was fixed. I reminded him that I had kept him I formed about my condition and he had listened to shrly and not to me. At one stage, the boss saw me climb a step ladder to assist the apprentice and he screamed at me for doing so. I told him that the job that he had just given me couldn’t be done without climbing a ladder, and asked why he was yelling at me now? He said that if he didn’t see it, then it didn’t happen.
I asked if he wanted me to leave? He replied that he had said all along that I shouldn’t come back unless I was fixed. He added that I had signed the plan and if I didn’t do what was on the plan then he would ring X because she seemed to know how to motivate me. I had previously asked X about just quitting my job and she convinced me that I was not even allowed to do that!
She said that the only way I could leave was if I was sacked, but I had better not be sacked for refusing to work or refusing to do anything that my boss asked. She added that if I was sacked, she wanted it in writing and on her desk.
Every day, the boss would push me to do more and more, he would threaten to call X if I didn’t comply and then use guilt trips on me saying that I didn’t care about anyone else’s back. He would nag me to do something and then threaten to call X if I gave him any resistance. He also said that he was taking notes on how often I gave him resistance and threatened to call workcover, saying that I was putting other people at risk. He kept me in a state of panic and on the back foot the whole time.
I wish that I had taken notes, but I was kept in a state of panic and embarrassment. Even my colleagues would tease me about my injury, saying that it was impossible. When I mentioned that I thought that it had started when I lifted steel at the bosses house, the boss would come in and say that he had told me not to mention that ever again or I knew what would happen.
He would either yell at me or give me the silent treatment until I tried to do something, but when I complained that it was hurting my back, he would threaten to call X. He showed all of the other blokes my restrictions and when I found out. I was upset with him and added that he knew what jobs I was supposed to be doing and not doing. He said that he was the boss and could give me whatever jobs he wanted done and it was up to me to work out how to do them without breaking restrictions.
The boss would also say that he had a bulged disc so he knew what it was like and nobody would be as sympathetic as him.
He would play on the fact that I cared about the the blokes and that would get me to assist with lifting things that I probably shouldn’t have been lifting. I had an IME with Dr B [listed on the Karma bus] which was horrible. The boss received the report and asked where it was on the report that I had assisted with lifting a barbecue? I asked the boss if he wanted me to tell dr B that my return to work coordinator had threatened and embarrassed me into lifting a barbecue?
I rang the OR provider once and told them that I was being pressured and yelled at in order to get me to do heavy work. I was asked if I was following my restrictions? I said that I was doing my best, but I was finding it hard to do so while continuing to work. I asked them to remind me of my restrictions? Once they were listed, I said that I had tried them. I was told that those restrictions would be removed because I had tried them. I asked for a site visit. Instead, they rang the boss and told him what I had said. The boss came out and said that if I make even one more peep, I was f ed.
I rang the insurance co to ask them if I was allowed to step down or step back in regard to my duties? I was told that the only way was forward until I was at full capacity or lose all entitlements including weekly payments and medical expenses.
I was working 4 days per week and was supposed to be working only 8 hours per day, but I would be frequently threatened into working longer and left on my own to clean up after other trades. I could do no more than that because of the pain that I would be experiencing as a result of performing my duties. I kept hoping that my back would improve but it stayed in a state of constant aggravation. I spent my whole life working, recovering and then preparing for work. I had to give up all of my vocational pursuits and I lost joy in life. I didn’t realise that I had become depressed.
One day, the boss really cracked it with me because I said that I couldn’t lay decking. He said that it was my turn and everyone else had done it and he was sick of me not doing my share of the bending. I told him that it was not because I didn’t want to, it was because my back was only just hanging in there as it was. He said that I was sacked and that he was calling X. I agreed to leave but asked for my tools that the other blokes were using. He said that I was not getting my tools back ( he yelled, nobody help him or give him his tools )and when I was gone, they would smash them up or just leave them on the street for someone to take because at least I cared about my tools.
I had never intended to hurt my back nor hurt myself at all. I just intended to do a good job and be the best worker that a boss could have. I didn’t know about the procedures when you’re injured and just trusted the boss to do the right thing by me. How naive am I?
Another thing that comes to mind is that a few times, he would give me jobs that were dangerous and say that I was to complete them. I asked why someone else couldn’t do them? He said that he didn’t want them to get hurt because he was responsible if they did. He added that if I got hurt then there was absolutely no comeback on him.
After the 130 weeks was over, I believed that I might finally be allowed to leave without being sacked. I asked him to let me step down. He said that I could step down once the job was complete, but not until then. I eventually saw a lawyer and the boss found out and said that he would make absolutely certain that my back was f ed before I left.
There is far more to this story and I only realised how wrong I have gone recently. I’ve only realised my rights recently and I understand why I was kept in the dark and threatened into submission.
Apart from not getting the scans done in the first place, it was only when we went to conciliation that I found out that I was at fault for doing what I was threatened and manipulated into doing. It was there, when we were getting a certificate of genuine dispute for my lower back that I was asked about my mid back and why it had not been scanned yet. I said that it would not be fair to introduce injuries at that stage but reminded that I had actually written it down in my initial claim. With my frustration and anger over my past treatment, I mistakenly said that it was probably because I didn’t complain enough. And it was there that I found out that I was actually allowed to step down from duties. I made so many mistakes, trying to do what I thought I was supposed to. Long long story,…
I think that you might understand the anger and frustration that comes with dealing with workcover and their minions but only someone who has been through it would get it. For everyone else, it seems easy.
Anyway, my back is mending since having nearly 10 months off work. I’m looking to retrain in safety. I’m hoping that I might be able to help others in the future
Thank you for reading.
[Post inserted on behalf of workcovervictim]