ACT News

ACT public servant loses compensation bid for anxiety and injury

A Canberra public servant has lost her bid for compensation after claiming she was bullied and humiliated by her boss causing anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.

The veteran Disability ACT staffer claimed an email from her supervisor about shift allocations in 2013 left her devastated, nauseous and suffering heart palpitations and dizziness.

The Canberra based public servant told the tribunal her managers were trying to bully her into working a roster that ...
The Canberra based public servant told the tribunal her managers were trying to bully her into working a roster that would affect her well-being. Photo: Michel OSullivan

Comcare initially accepted liability the woman's repetitive strain injuries in 2011, although she lodged a claim for compensation in 2013 based on the anxiety allegedly caused by her supervisor.

According to an Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia judgement, the woman claimed to have been bullied and discriminated by her manager who she accused of making unprofessional accusations.

She said her manager had thrown the roster at her and prevented her from "picking up the creamy shifts", which made her feel humiliated and insulated.

She told the tribunal her managers were trying to bully her into working a roster that would affect her well-being and exacerbate her injuries.

Comcare denied liability for the woman's anxiety and hypertensions and a secondary condition of depression and an adjustment disorder, prompting her to challenge the decision. 

The tribunal heard a consultant psychiatrist found the woman did not suffer from a psychiatric disorder in 2013 and her anxiety was within the normal realm of functioning and behaviour.

The psychiatrist noted "she had reached a stalemate with the employer and she was stubbornly concerned about re-injury and felt that she needed to defend her position."

"Again, I do not consider this as based on mental illness, rather a pursuit of perceived fairness in the workplace," he said.

A year later, Dr William Knox diagnosed her with major depressive disorder and an adjustment disorder with anxiety

"He attributed this to harsh circumstances in her workplace with her being forced to undertake full-time hours in either of two work spheres, either of which alone will subject her to the risk of further and serious distress and disability," the judgement said.

"He considered her condition to be outside the boundaries of normal mental functioning and behaviour."

AATA deputy president Gary Humphries said the tribunal was in little doubt the woman was deeply troubled by the attitude of her supervisors in early 2013.

"She was evidently very agitated and distressed by what she saw as an unfair and discriminatory approach being taken to her health needs by her supervisors," he said.

"Her distress at this state of affairs was evident in the witness box."

But the tribunal found her conditions were either outside the definition of injury or were suffered as a result of "reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner in respect of her employment".