Workcover stress claims can be extremely challenging to file and to litigate against. And they are getting tougher and tougher. There are many legal requirements that need to be satisfied in order to have a viable case. In order to submit a WorkCover claim for stress, it’s necessary for your legal team to demonstrate that you have suffered an ‘injury’ – at work – and within the meaning of the WorkCover legislation. This means you cannot typically claim for experiencing stress as an emotion, but rather, you are suffering from a clinical medical condition.
Workcover stress claims are getting tougher
Take the following legal case: A woman who worked in a library was horrified when she discovered that her creepy boss had been secretly taking (fourteen / 14) photos of -mainly- her breasts.
Prior to her finding out that her immediate supervisor (boss) had taken those secret pictures which focused on her breasts, the woman did raise concerns with the library’s HR manager about her supervisor’s “odd” behaviour.
In fact the woman learned what her boss had been up to by the HR manager as well as the head of the library. Both the HR manager and the library’s head apparently somewhat defended the boss’ actions, highlighting that the secret pictures had been taken in a public place and that the woman was dressed in her work clothes.
The bewildered woman requested to see the taken pictures and was sickened to find at least 6 of them focused on her breasts, cutting out her head of the picture. The woman, understandably felt hurt and humiliated.
The woman subsequently sought workcover compensation for a psychological injury. Doctor’s testified that she suffered an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood as a direct result of the sexual harassment (secret pictures) in the workplace. But, you can guess it, WorkCover (Queensland) as well as the Industrial Relations Commission (Queensland) ruled against her. (WTF!)
The Industrial Relations Commission found that although the incident happened at work, they were not satisfied the injury arose out of, or in the course of, her employment. They stated the woman’s workplace (the library) was merely the (public) place where the inappropriate behaviour occurred. As such the Commission ruled that the sexually harassed woman’s employment was not a “significant contributing factor” to her psychological injury. They ruled that the “significant contributing factor” was the taking of the pictures by her boss and “this had nothing to do with the employment”! Unbelievable! Yet in Queensland the workcover law states that employment (=work) must be a “major significant” factor contributing to the injury.
This case obviously illustrates the tough(er) interpretation of the workcover laws regarding psychological injury in the workplace.
This poor woman was in the workplace -at work as a librarian in the library- when she suffered a psychological injury due to disgusting behaviour by her boss, yet she not entitled to workcover!
It raises serious questions about sexual harassment, discrimination and also bullying by work co-workers and bosses – are these perpetrators now classified as being outside workplace laws and having nothing to do with a victim’s employment?
It’s notoriously difficult to successfully lodge a workcover stress claim and it’s extremely important you seek sound legal advice before even lodging a stress claim.