ACT News

Woman who lied about death to get leave loses compo bid

A Canberra public servant who took more than 21 weeks of leave within 16 months lied to her manager about her grandmother dying to get more time off, a tribunal heard.

Tonya Moss has lost a bid for workers’ compensation after claims she had been “harassed”, “bullied”, “targeted” and ostracised by her manager over the often unplanned leave were rejected by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Ms Moss, who had a history of depression and anxiety, worked as an APS6 and EL1 level bureaucrat at the Department of Health and Ageing, first on temporary employment and later in a non-ongoing position between June 2010 and 2012.

During the time, Ms Moss was given remote access to the department’s computer system so she could work from home on occasion, subject to approval from her manager.

Her manager became concerned about the amount of unplanned leave she had taken in April 2011.

But a month later, Ms Moss underwent surgery and was forced to be absent from work after suffering post-operative complications.

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She reported anxiety and stress in August and September 2011 due to a workplace restructure, which later saw her take up an acting position as an EL1.

She stood down from the position within months, alleging difficulties with her manager.

About the same time, Ms Moss was granted bereavement leave after lying that her grandmother had died.

The tribunal heard she left work early the following week as she had a hangover after attending a concert the night before.

Her manager initiated a meeting with her about the same time to discuss her high levels of unplanned leave.

She complained of stress to her doctor in the months following the meeting and completed a compensation claim form in respect of “exacerbation of anxiety and depression caused by workplace harassment” in January 2012.

Commonwealth public service workplace insurer Comcare rejected the claim, finding her manager had undertaken a reasonable administrative action in a reasonable manner.

Ms Moss challenged the ruling in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but member Simon Webb affirmed Comcare’s decision.

Mr Webb found other factors - including Ms Moss’ poor health after surgery and the pressure of juggling employment with being a single parent - contributed to the aggravation of her stress levels.

A medical expert, called during the tribunal hearing, said Ms Moss’ existing depressive disorder, and her personality style which focused on conflict, also played a part.

“Many of the allegations Ms Moss levelled against [her manager] are not supported by evidence,” Mr Webb wrote in a judgment published this week.

“If there was a clash of styles, and it appears there was, it does not follow, and it is not presently established, that this amounted to bullying and harassment of Ms Moss by [her manager].

"I am reasonably satisfied that it was reasonable for [management] to take action to manage Ms Moss’ unplanned absences from the workplace, and it was reasonable for him to do so by putting her on notice of the issue and then meeting with her … to discuss it.”