16 Apr 2015

Bullying claim for bizarre injury rejected

by Jennifer Wyborn, Lauren Haywood

Good record management early on in the complaint process will save a lot of pain down the track.

An employee has been denied workers' compensation by the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Tribunal in Tasmania (The State of Tasmania (Department of Police & Emergency Management) v H [2015]), on the basis that alleged "belligerent, aggressive and intimidatory" behaviour by her colleague was not the most significant cause of an aggravation to the employee's pre-existing vulvodynia (a chronic pain syndrome affecting the external female genitals).

In the course of being directed to perform an administrative task, the employee conveyed to her colleague that she believed the request to be unreasonable and wanted to discuss the matter with her supervisor. Following the alleged "enraged" reaction of her colleague, the employee lodged a claim for workers"compensation citing alleged bullying by her colleague as the reason for the aggravation of her condition. The colleague gave a different version of events, which was preferred by the Tribunal.

The Tribunal rejected the claim on the basis that if the matter were to proceed to contested hearing, it would be likely that her colleague's actions would not be found to be unreasonable and could not be perceived as such by the employee.

Although the facts in the matter pertain to a seemingly mundane, everyday task, this decision highlights the need for supervisors and managers to keep good records and file notes of workplace interactions with their staff, particularly where there is a complaint or dispute as to the behaviour of one particular individual. Good record management early on in the complaint process will save a lot of pain should the issue come before an external body for determination.


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