Member’s rejected WorkCover claim overturned with union assistance
A member employed at a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) has had their WorkCover application overturned on review after receiving assistance from our union.
Our member had suffered significant psychological injury due to the conduct of one of her colleagues while at work.
They were exposed to a pattern of continuing and inappropriate behaviour by the colleague.
The injury was caused due to our member becoming aware of allegations the colleague made against them during an unrelated investigation process being undertaken by their employer.
While the employer’s investigation concluded that the allegations made by the colleague were untrue, the airing of the allegation itself was the ‘tipping point’ and caused the psychological injury to our member.
Subsequently, they were deemed unfit for duty and made a WorkCover claim which was instigated by their doctor.
At this point, our member had yet to seek assistance from our union.
The employer responded to the WorkCover claim by stating that they had taken “reasonable management action in a reasonable way” during their investigation and were opposed to the claim being approved because of this.
The employer argued that they were duty bound to investigate the allegations and to put them to our member for response.
They stated that they did this, and found that the allegations made by the colleague were not able to be substantiated.
It was further found that the colleague had long-term personal issues with our member, and made a baseless accusation.
The colleague was later terminated from their employment.
Under Worker’s Compensation legislation, if a psychological injury is caused by the actions of an employer but those actions were “reasonable management” decisions, then WorkCover must deny the claim.
The Courts have found that employers’ actions do not need to be perfect or without “blemish” in this sense – they just need to be reasonable.
When WorkCover issued their decision, they accepted that our member suffered an injury.
However, they also agreed with the employer in that it arose out of “management action”, with the management action being the investigation, and putting the allegations to our member.
Due to this finding, the claim was rejected.
As a result, our member then contacted our union for assistance.
Our Industrial Services Team indicated that an appeal – a Worker’s Compensation Review – could be made to the external Worker’s Compensation Regulator.
An Industrial Services team member reviewed the WorkCover case file, and was able to formulate the review application.
The focus of our union’s argument in the review was that the injury was not caused by the actions of management at all – but in fact the actions of the colleague in airing the allegation being the ‘tipping point’.
We argued that the subsequent investigation and actions by management were not the cause of the injury, and therefore not relevant to the case.
The Worker’s Compensation Regulator accepted our argument and overturned the decision by WorkCover.
Subsequently our member was able to be paid and their medical expenses were covered by WorkCover.
WorkCover applications, particularly for psychological injuries, are complex matters and should be treated as such.
Members who have experienced, or do experience, an injury at work are urged to contact our union’s Industrial Services team in the first instance on FREECALLL 1800 177 937.