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CIT teacher wins compensation after he was bullied and harassed

A Canberra Institute of Technology teacher has won compensation after he was bullied by a supervisor.

Richard Saunders – who worked as a technical officer and then teacher from 2000 until 2010 – made the claim after suffering from anxiety and depression, a depressive disorder and psoriasis as a result of bullying and harassment at work.

But Comcare denied responsibility, arguing the injuries had not been compensable because they had resulted from reasonable administrative action taken in a reasonable manner.

The claims covered two periods of employment in 2007 and 2010.

Mr Saunders split opinions during his decade at the tertiary institution, a tribunal decision said.

He was regarded as an extremely competent technical officer and an inspirational teacher by many.


But others, including several supervisors, believed he had defects as a teacher, including inadequate lesson plans, disorganised lessons, and a failure to properly account for his time.

In 2007, Mr Saunders complained about his supervisor, claiming he was a control freak, abusive and aggressive. 

Mr Saunders claimed he suffered adjustment disorder, depression, and psoriasis as a result of the bullying and harassment by the supervisor.

The supervisor was removed from the role and both were placed on a performance management scheme.

But an administrative error saw the man again made his supervisor in 2010.

Mr Saunders went on sick leave citing stress after a meeting and email about his failure to complete a performance management plan.

He claimed this aggravated his depressive disorder.

But Comcare denied liability and Mr Saunders appealed the decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Lawyers for Comcare conceded partial responsibility for the depressive disorder, but maintained the 2010 events had been the result of reasonable administrative action carried out in a reasonable manner.

During the case before the tribunal, both parties agreed the actions had been reasonable administrative actions.

But Mr Saunders argued they had not been carried out in a reasonable manner.

Tribunal deputy president Major-General Greg Melick, SC, agreed, finding that the fact Mr Saunders had been placed back under the management of the supervisor meant the actions were not carried out in a reasonable manner.

"The applicant is entitled to compensation … for adjustment reaction with anxious mood and psoriasis," Major-General Melick wrote in his judgment.

But the tribunal refused the second claim, arising from 2007, because of the six-year delay between the injury and the claim.

Legislation says notice should be given to the relevant authority "as soon as practicable after the employee becomes aware of the injury".

Major-General Melick said Mr Saunders had not given written notice of his alleged ailments from 2007 to Comcare as "soon as practicable" after he became aware of them.

"Although written notice of injury may be given by the lodgement of a claim form, the applicant did not submit a claim for his alleged ailments from mid-2007 until March 2013. This represents a delay of just under six years."

Comcare were ordered to pay 50 per cent of Mr Saunders costs.